A FORMER West Wales solicitor who went bankrupt has been jailed for two years on Friday (Mar 27) after cheating an elderly disabled woman out of her inheritance.
Simon William Griffiths, aged 52, admitted two offences of fraud involving £60,000.
Swansea crown court heard the money came from the estate of Helen Ward Jones, of Pembrokeshire.
Robin Rouch, prosecuting, said that two sisters, Barbara Collins and Christine Sheridan, were to be the beneficiaries and the women put their trust in Griffiths, then running Eaves Solicitors in Milford Haven, to handle the will.
Christine Sheridan was by then disabled and living in sheltered accommodation in the Midlands.
Mr Rouch said Christine Sheridan did not receive the £60,000 she was entitled to.
There was also mystery over the sale of a flat in Aberystwyth for £107,000, added Mr Rouch. When Barbara Collins received a cheque from Griffiths in relation to the sale it bounced and it was still unclear what had happened to the proceeds of the sale.
The court was told that on two occasions Griffiths, of Rose Valley, Lower Lamphey Road, Pembroke, transferred money totalling £60,000 from Helen Ward Jones’ estate to a property company he was in charge of.
The judge, Mr Recorder Chris Clee, told Griffiths, “Christine Sheridan didn’t receive a penny and the question remains what happened to the £107,000 from the sale of the flat?”
Mr Clee said: “Griffiths had told police that he had been in practice for 23 years and had been “well aware that the worst thing he could do was to utilise a client account.”
But that was exactly what he had done, added the judge.
Griffiths maintained that he had used the money to invest in property and he had intended to repay the money in full.
“You don’t need me to tell you that your life’s in ruins. You’ve been struck of the solicitors’ roll, made bankrupt and lost your good character and reputation.
“This was a significant and high degree of breach of trust and you took advantage of Christine Sheridan’s disability. The public expects members of the profession to be above reproach.”
Dyfed Thomas, defending, said his client was remorseful and after police involvement had made it “abundantly clear” he would admit the two offences of fraud, each involving £30,000.
He said Griffiths had no previous convictions and added “he wants me to express to the court his genuine remorse”.
Mr Thomas added,“He was a trusted professional until his spectacular fall from grace.”
Mr Rouch said Griffiths appeared to have any or many assets out of which the women could be repaid.