"♬...You take Aviva's dough, with you ♬".
A former BLM paralegal has been jailed for over three years for stealing payments of £438,000 intended for road traffic accident victims.
Paul Young (not that one) joined BLM's Manchester office in 2016, working in the 'volume motor team' to defend claims of personal injury and vehicle damage, for the insurance client Aviva.
Young worked on a new claims management system at BLM, which allowed him to request payments to be made to claimants' solicitors, without Aviva checking the authenticity of the bank details. BLM also did not check the payment requests against the case files, it was reported in the Manchester Evening News.
BLM investigated and disciplined Young in 2018 when it discovered that he had arranged for over £5,000 to be paid into a wrong bank account. But the firm gave him the benefit of the doubt, as Young claimed he had made a genuine error and was suffering from mental health issues.
But in 2019, Young was rumbled when the firm was alerted to Aviva paying out around £32,000 in a series of payments for a personal injury claim, with the claimant's solicitors not receiving a penny.
BLM launched an investigation and found that Young had taken advantage of Aviva's automated payment system to direct funds into his own bank accounts, rather than paying money owed to claimants. The firm fired the paralegal in June 2019.
It emerged that Young had arranged 116 payments to his own bank accounts, totalling £437,598.79 during a three-year period. BLM had to pay the sum back to Aviva.
Prosecutor Henry Blackshaw told the Manchester Crown Court that Young used the funds on gambling websites, third party transfers and living expenses. Young also paid some of the cash to an associate, Liam Henry, to launder the money.
Young's barrister said in defence that his client's planning was "not the most sophisticated". He said that the former paralegal was "no longer gambling" and was receiving "support for his gambling addiction". Young repaid around £30k to BLM following the sale of a property.
Judge Smith said that Young "took advantage of flaws" in the system. While it was "inevitable" that Young would be caught at some point, the judge noted that his fraudulent activity continued "for some considerable period of time before finally being detected."
Young pleaded guilty to fraud, and the court jailed him for three years and three months.
The SRA handed a section 43 order against Young in 2020, which bans him from working in the legal profession without permission.
“Paul Young was dismissed from BLM when it was established that his actions breached both his contract of employment and the SRA’s Code of Conduct," said a BLM spokeswoman. "Mr Young’s conduct was immediately reported to the SRA and to Greater Manchester Police."
"We will always take a hard stance against theft and welcome the outcome," the spokeswoman commented on the jail sentence. “BLM has robust financial procedures in place to prevent any such incidents happening at the firm.”