A solicitor has been struck of by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) for stealing inheritance money from a client.
The sole director, solicitor Geoffrey Rushton, of Rushton Legal Services based in Staffordshire, was instructed in August 2016, by his jailed client, to transfer inheritance money to his account from his deceased mother’s account. An investigation was launched by the SRA after Rushton’s client complained to the regulator.
Following the instruction, Rushton proceeded to transfer £37,500 from the deceased mother of his client’s account into Rushton Legal Services’ overdrawn business account. Rushton then used £225 of the money to renew an overdraft facility in the firm’s account and made transfers totalling £7k into his personal account.
A list of charges was sent by Rushton to his client detailing transactions of £3,300, including a bank charge which the SDT said was “fictitious“. He also sent letters to his client about the charges, which the SDT called “series of lies“, which included claims that Rushton Legal Services’ bank accounts had been frozen due to an audit.
“There was no billing to justify the transfers and no explanation or notification was provided to the client,” said the SDT.
Rushton blamed a former employee for forging the letters, but the tribunal dismissed the claim describing it as “nonsensical“.
The SDT also challenged Rushton on the grounds that he was aware that his client was in prison and would “find it harder to verify, and therefore challenge” the information provided by Rushton.
Rushton did not attend the hearing before the SDT. The tribunal struck him off the roll and he was ordered to pay £21,800 in costs.