How it might have looked

A former Locke Lord partner has been jailed for 15 years for his part in two frauds totalling £25m.

Jonathan Denton worked in the London office of US firm Locke Lord from 2012 to 2015, as an expert in FSA compliance regulations, and presumably irony. During his time he was paid around £21m from investors into the firm's client account, but with no verifiable returns going to the investors.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal fined Locke Lord £500k in 2017, for failing to prevent Denton from involving himself and the firm in transactions "that bore the hallmarks of dubious financial arrangements or investment schemes". The tribunal also said that the firm had failed to "properly supervise" the lawyer. At the time, it was the largest fine that a firm had been slapped with by the SDT (although it was matched this year).

Denton was struck off in 2018 and ordered to pay £70,000 after the tribunal deemed that his conduct was "a flagrant breach of the trust placed in him by his clients" who had relied on his status as a solicitor. 

North Yorkshire Police has now concluded a multi-million pound fraud investigation, called Operation Circus Two, concerning the frauds.

Police uncovered complex ‘Ponzi’ investment schemes, similar to ‘pyramid’ schemes, which lured investors, promising huge returns. The arrangement paid profits to early investors using funds from more recent investors. 

Denton had been involved in promoting one of the dodgy schemes with a former financial adviser, Simon Oakley. In a trial in January this year, the court heard that Oakley was the "architect" of the original Ponzi scheme, along with Denton.

The investors believed they were dealing with "honest, law-abiding, professional people," and that they were investing their money "in a safe, virtually risk-free scheme which would net them a large return," said the police. However, their trust was "abused".

Many of the victims, who were investing their pensions and life savings, lost everything they had put into the scheme. The effect was "devastating both financially and personally," said police. Around £30 million in total was believed to be lost.

Denton was sentenced to fifteen years in prison, while Oakley received an eight year sentence. Across other trials, another five defendants who were involved in the schemes, will also have to serve time.

DI Janine Mitchell, Head of Economic Crime at North Yorkshire Police, said: “This investigation was a herculean effort and the guilty verdicts and lengthy jail terms given to many of the defendants are a testament to their determination to secure justice."

“The frauds investigated as part of this operation didn’t just target wealthy investors," she added. "Some of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and others were working people like plumbers, carpet fitters, postal employees and even a retired police officer."

    LU icon Firms ping LawyerUp when they like you for a role. It's available on the App Store and Google Play.

Thank you for taking part in RollOnFriday's survey of in-house lawyers. We use the results to write stories and reports. We don't take your name and so the answers you provide will be kept anonymous.
Your role
Your sector
When you're picking a firm, what's the most important factor?
How do you think the size of your in-house team will change over the next two years?
Will this be at the expense of instructing private practice?
How happy are you with your external lawyers working from home?
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 10 May 24 09:07

"The investors believed they were ... investing their money "in a safe, virtually risk-free scheme which would net them a large return,"

Yes, those are usually totally trustworthy and above board. 

Who could possibly have smelt a rat?!

Related News