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A group of charities are suing a former partner who was jailed for fraud, claiming they lost out on money that the lawyer stole from clients' estates.

Linda Box was a senior partner who stole over £4 million from her firm's clients. Her astounding greed resulted in the SRA closing Yorkshire firm Dixon Coles & Gill with the loss of all jobs. 

Box stole the huge sum from 75 client files over a 12 year period, and she also used her position as registrar with the Diocese of Wakefield to rob £63,000 from the Church of England.

The dodgy solicitor used the stolen funds to fund an extravagant lifestyle which included spending £800,000 on a collection of vintage wines for her son, paying off mortgages for relatives, private school fees for her grandchild, landscaping work at her home, and luxury holidays. She also spent over £235,000 on marketing for her husband's firm of undertakers. 

Box pleaded guilty and in 2017 the court jailed her for seven years, with a further eight years being added if she failed to repay £2.5 million. She was also struck off the roll of solicitors.

Box now faces fresh claims from the Guide Dogs for the Blind, Yorkshire Cancer Research, British Heart Foundation and the National Trust, who allege that Box stole money that was payable to them from the estate of one of her deceased clients: Ernest Scholefield.


British Heart v Linda Box

British Heart Foundation versus Linda Box


The charities have also included other parties as defendants: Julian Gill (who was co-executor of Scholefield's estate); the defunct firm Dixon Coles & Gill; and the firm's professional indemnity insurer, HDI Global Speciality SE.

At a preliminary issue hearing, Judge Saffman said that Gill was unaware of Box's criminal activity and "there is no suggestion that he acted dishonestly". Gill continues to work as a solicitor in Wakefield. He has filed a defence denying liability, as has the defunct firm Dixon Coles & Gill.

The insurer has argued that Scholefield's estate did not technically suffer a loss, as Box's fraud involved "teeming and lading" which meant that any stolen money was effectively replenished in the firm's client account with other misappropriated funds.

The insurer further argues that it had already paid out its liability limit under the firm's policy of £2 million, and so the cover has been exhausted. 

And Box has also incurred the wrath of the church, as the Bishop of Leeds has brought a separate claim on behalf of the Church of England and various charities, who allege they suffered significant loss caused by Box.

The hearings continue next month. 

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Comments

Anonymous 14 August 20 09:34

Julian Gill is a lovely guy, worked tirelessly volunteering for Wakefield Hospice and other charities and is also a victim who Box conned, and he lost his firm. I am sure he was devastated as I’m sure were all his employees who lost their jobs too.  Box is scum of the earth. Shame Mr Gill is dragged into this still now.

Did Box pay up her £2.5m? There must be targets to go after if not.

Anon 14 August 20 09:37

How has she avoided being struck off?

It seems:

-  Lose a file as a trainee or bend under cruel pressure as a junior lawyer - struck off or banned.

-  Steal £4 million - carry on as nothing happened.

Bit like a bunch in the square mile.

Lydia 14 August 20 09:56

Dreadful. Can the wines be seized from her son? What a stupid set of things to do to land yourself in prison at her age. She could have just worked harder or been less greedy.

Anonymous 14 August 20 10:38

I wonder if her husband's firm of undertakers can find Box a box and a suitable resting place to inter her reputation and professional integrity.

Anonymous 14 August 20 11:13

One wonders how the firm's accountants failed to spot the breaches if they occurred over a 12 year period.

Dearie 14 August 20 11:16

As much as I feel sorry for her partners, there are reasons that firms should have strict financial sign off policies - that includes the limit a partner can write off WIP on his or her own file and requiring a co-signature for sums over £10k. It’s laborious admin but it works.

Anon 14 August 20 12:35

@Anon 0937 She has not avoided being struck off. Search for Box on solicitorstribunal.org.uk. (I can’t paste a link to the result for some reason.) Case no 11509-2016

 

@Anonymous 1041 It is £2m per claim but the question is whether they aggregate as one claim with one limit. 

Anonymous 14 August 20 13:16

She ran a Ponzi scheme for 12 years. That is concerning nobody identified this over a dozen years. It seems that unless and until the file at the end of the line is picked up, the scam can proceed without the other files having a shortfall and thus suffered a loss.  

Feels sorry for the insurer who has to pick this up on a claims made basis. Lets see if the aggregation point succeeds next month.

Anon 14 August 20 13:20

Have to agree with Dearie, although I sympathise that this was a relatively small firm that may have relied more on long standing trust. Goes to show why increasingly it's just not possible to operate that way.

I also find it hard to believe her family didn't think something was up. Do partners in independent firms in Yorkshire regularly spend £800k on wine? If so then get me on the next train.

Sheriff of Nottingham 14 August 20 14:37

"The dodgy solicitor used the stolen funds to fund an extravagant lifestyle which included spending £800,000 on a collection of vintage wines for her son, paying off mortgages for relatives, private school fees for her grandchild, landscaping work at her home, and luxury holidays. She also spent over £235,000 on marketing for her husband's firm of undertakers."

Apart from a few squid on herself, it appears she was merely trying to play at being Robin Hood.  These large charities and churches don't need the money - they're loaded!  Poor Ms Box and her family.

All a storm in a giant Yorkshire tea cup.  I say free her and reinstate her to her position of former glory.

 

....gotta go, screws are coming for the 3pm daily 'sesh'.

Anonymous 14 August 20 20:48

I think she's great. If you're going to commit fraud and steal, you may as well do it properly. I salute you, Linda.

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