Shamed cash solicitor struck off

A FORMER Ipswich solicitor who siphoned off nearly £27,400 of a client's money, is in disgrace today after being struck off.

A FORMER Ipswich solicitor who siphoned off nearly £27,400 of a client's money, is in disgrace today after being struck off.

The Solicitors' Disciplinary Tribunal found Keith Croft improperly transferred the funds into his firm's account after telling a colleague he might keep the money left over from a French holiday home purchase.

Croft, a solicitor since 1983 and sole principal of Riddell Croft and Co in St Helen's Street, was alleged to have breached the Solicitors Accounts Rules 1998, although he did not attend the tribunal.

The panel heard the 51-year-old, of Mount Pleasant, Framlingham, fleeced a client referred to as Mr RH of £27,392 after dishonestly moving it into Riddell Croft's account in April 2002.

Cash-strapped Croft had acted on Mr RH's behalf when buying a house in France in 2001, the tribunal was told.

The sum of money was left over due to a favourable exchange rate and Croft, who operated his own business from 2000 to 2005, banked the cash.

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Robert Roscoe, for the Law Society, said Mr RH had forgotten about the money.

Croft had told a female employee he “had a good mind to keep the money” but she warned him not to, the tribunal heard.

The solicitor later claimed he had no recollection of the conversation.

Croft's scam was uncovered when his firm was taken over by another legal practice which became concerned about his book-keeping and called in the Law Society.

Mr Roscoe said Croft, who was made bankrupt in September 2005, had not repaid the money owed to Mr RH.

He told the panel: “He failed to act in his client's best interests and has compromised and impaired his reputation and that of the profession.

“In relation to Mr RH's money he withdrew client money in breach of the rules and in doing so his conduct was dishonest.

“Having been appraised of the deficit in respect of that money, he did not return the money.

“Mr RH said he was unaware that money had been taken or indeed that he was aware the money was held following the conclusion of the property purchase in France.

The tribunal panel also heard Croft failed to supply two years worth of accountant reports for his old law firm for the financial years ending 2004 and 2005.

He continued to work as a law consultant until his practising certificate was automatically suspended because of his bankruptcy.

Croft was found guilty of dishonesty and improperly withdrawing client's money, failing to comply with accounts rules, failing to keep accounting records and failing to act in the client's best interests.

In addition to being struck off the roll of solicitors, Croft was also ordered to pay costs of £6,675.60.

If you are Mr RH telephone The Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788.