A Melbourne lawyer has been jailed for six years for stealing over $1.75 million from clients to fund his lavish lifestyle.
John James Kotsifas* was a sole practitioner at eponymous firm J Kotsifas & Associates which specialised in probate settlements, conveyancing and property disputes. And also, it has emerged, ripping off clients.
Kotsifas appeared before the Supreme Court where he pleaded guilty to 23 charges of financial impropriety. Between January 2013 to October 2015 he made unauthorised withdrawals of $1.49 million from client trust accounts and stole $267,000 from client funds.
Kotsifas' light-fingered approach allowed him to indulge in a luxurious lifestyle as he used client money towards a $2.4 million home, architect's fees and renovations - including the construction of a swimming pool. He also used stolen funds to pay for his golf club membership and make repayments towards his Porsche and credit cards.
The lawyer blamed his second wife for putting pressure on him, saying that she demanded a life he couldn't afford.
"This lifestyle is not for me, but 'Her Indoors' insisted. Tut."
The judge said that Kotsifas posed as a solicitor and confidante to people he was meant to be friendly with, but manipulated them and stole their money. One woman told the court that her late husband, a client of Kostifas for 20 years, felt "gutted" when he discovered the lawyer's deceit shortly before his death. The woman said Kotsifas had forged a relationship with them, as he would visit their home with his children and invited them to his birthday party.
Another former client said Kotsifas had preyed on her and destroyed her financially, leaving her "on the brink of homelessness". When Kotsifas' firm was wound up, clients only received a fraction of their money back.
The judge slammed the dodgy lawyer, saying he had "engaged in significant acts of betrayal and dishonesty" and his "reprehensible" conduct had caused nothing but pain and loss to his victims. The court sentenced Kotsifas to six years in jail, with a minimum of four years before he will be eligible for parole.
*Not to be confused with a Melbourne solicitor named John Andrew Kotsifas.