A SOLICITOR has been jailed for 26 months after he helped himself to more than £50,000 from the accounts of an elderly dementia sufferer who treated him like a son.
Michael Rigg, 60, had known Jessie Robinson, a friend of his mother’s for more than 30 years and when she went into a home and her condition was deteriorating he obtained power of attorney over her finances.
He had been the family solicitor to her and her late husband and was trusted to act in the best interests of the 84-year-old. He was even due to receive half her estate in her will.
But Louise Pryke, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court yesterday between September 2007 and June last year Rigg took £51,488.68 from her bank and post office accounts “for his own benefits”.
Mark Foley, representing Rigg, said the money had not been spent on a profligate lifestyle. He had donated some of the money to charity and his church, used some on his own mother’s nursing home fees and payments to other people “in financial need”.
A keen trainspotter and cyclist, Rigg was a man of modest means who spent £80 on a ticket to Switzerland for a cycling holiday during which he stayed at hostels.
Mr Foley said Rigg could not really explain his actions and had “great difficulty in really recognising the enormity and seriousness of what he had done”.
He said one possibility was that he was getting his money out from the estate before it was spent on nursing home fees.
He told the court through his regular visits to Mrs Robinson, Rigg was aware of disgruntlement that she was paying fees privately at her home when others were state funded, It would not affect her position since she would receive the same care after her money was gone.
Rigg, of Carlton Mount, Yeadon, Leeds, admitted three charges of fraud.
Sentencing him Recorder Tahir Khan QC said it was “difficult to imagine somebody being more vulnerable and in need of protection” than Mrs Robinson, instead Rigg betrayed his position and committed a gross breach of trust against her.
“Your occupation as a solicitor would have left you with no doubt at all that what your were engaging in was serious dishonesty.”
The court heard Rigg has already repaid £50,000 to Mrs Robinson.
Miss Pryke told the court although Rigg drew up the power of attorney correctly he never registered it. He then began to make regular withdrawals from Mrs Robinson’s three accounts with the Leeds Building Society and her Post Office account.
But last year the building society became suspicious and staff at the Yeadon branch which he regularly used, were told to check what the withdrawals were for.
On May 20 he was asked about a £100 withdrawal and said Mrs Robinson was going on holiday to Cornwall which was known to be a lie since she did not leave the home and he was subsequently arrested.
A spokesperson for Morrish Solicitors where Rigg practised said they had co-operated fully with the police. They had immediately suspended Rigg on his arrest and he had then resigned.
“These allegations refer to dealings undertaken by Mr Rigg without the organisation’s knowledge and do not relate to any current clients of the firm.”
“Any contact Mr Rigg may have undertaken with any third party has been entirely of his own volition, and not in the course of the firm’s business.”