A LEEDS solicitor was today jailed for 26 months after stealing more than £51,000 from an elderly dementia sufferer who treated him like a son.
Michael Rigg, 60, of Carlton Mount, Yeadon, Leeds, had known 84-year-old Jessie Robinson for around 30 years and stood to receive half of her estate when she died.
He began using her money “for his own piggy bank” after he was made power of attorney when Mrs Robinson went into a care home.
Mark Foley, defending Rigg, told Leeds Crown Court his client was “a man of modest means” who spent the money on donations to the church and charity, his mother’s nursing home fees and payments to people “in financial need”.
He said: “That money, it is not suggested, was spent on a profligate lifestyle. There is no evidence of this money being spent frivolously.”
Mr Foley told the court that Rigg, a keen train spotter and cyclist, could not explain why he had taken the money and had “great difficulty in really recognising the enormity and seriousness of what he’s done”.
He said: “One possibility is he was getting his money out before it was spent on nursing home fees.”
The court heard Rigg was a family friend of Mrs Robinson who acted as a solicitor for her and her late husband, looked after her and visited her regularly.
Mr Foley said: “He describes himself as being a son-like figure to the complainant.”
Mrs Robinson drew up a will with a different solicitor, naming Rigg as a 50% beneficiary and, in September 2007, she granted him power of attorney.
The court heard that, while the documents were drawn up correctly, Rigg never registered them.
Over the next three years, he withdrew a total of £51,488.68 from three building society accounts and a Post Office account.
He was arrested in 2011 when staff at the Yeadon branch of the Leeds Building Society became suspicious.
He initially told police he had given some of the money to Mrs Robinson but later admitted he had used it for his own purposes.
He pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud at Leeds Crown Court last month.
Mr Foley said: “This is a solicitor of 60 years of age, a man of good character, who has committed an appalling breach of trust.”
Sentencing Rigg to 26 months in prison, Recorder Tahir Khan QC said: “It was against a vulnerable victim and in these circumstances it is difficult to imagine somebody being more vulnerable and in need of protection.
“You were in a position of great responsibility and trust towards Mrs Robinson.”
He continued: “You persistently stole money belonging to the victim over three years.
“Your occupation as a solicitor would have left you with no doubt at all that what you were engaging in was serious dishonesty.”
The court heard Rigg had repaid the money taken from Mrs Robinson and proceeds of crime proceedings were also under way.
Speaking outside the court after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Steven Taylor, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “This is a bizarre case with no real motive. The only thing that we found was this was easily accessible money.
“He used his client and friend’s money for his own piggy bank.”
The detective added: “The fact that he was a family friend is an aggravating feature. The fact that he’s a professional in a role as such to protect his client, it’s unforgivable really.
“We’re expected as professionals to protect the most vulnerable in society, which this lady is.”