Shamed solicitor faces jail for theft of £1.4m

A SOLICITOR is facing a "substantial" prison sentence after he was convicted of funding a lavish lifestyle by stealing £1.4m from the law firm where he was a senior partner.

Simon Morgan and his wife Ann, who was the office manager at Milners in Leeds, plundered the firm's client and office accounts for two and a half years to finance their extravagant living.

They used company money to pay for expensive family holidays abroad, flights by private jet and meals at top restaurants while taking clients' cash to help to pay for a Ferrari and a Lamborghini.

Morgan, 50, of Main Street, Bilbrough, near York, was yesterday unanimously found guilty by a jury at Leeds Crown Court of six charges of theft between January 2002 and July 2004.

His wife, 55, has not been in court as she was found to be under disability and unfit to stand trial for psychiatric reasons but the jury decided she did the acts amounting to the six offences.

Judge James Goss, QC, agreed to adjourn sentence on Morgan until later this month at the request of his defence.

He bailed him on conditions of residence, three times weekly reporting to a police station and surrendering his passport to the police, warning him: "As you well know and understand the fact I am granting you bail does not mean anything other than a prison sentence will be imposed, this is just to give you the opportunity of putting your affairs in order."

The judge said he would also then consider the situation of Mrs Morgan after receiving updated information about her medical condition, described at a previous hearing as a form of hysterical reaction with underlying depression.

He said it was understood she had been living as something of a recluse and it was clear "for a not inconsiderable time" Morgan would not be available to assist her.

After he was told that Mrs Morgan has been living with her daughter during the trial, the judge said there was still a possibility if she became fit in the future she could be tried by another jury, otherwise the options on her were for a hospital order, a supervision order or an absolute discharge, the last one he did not favour.

Thanking the jury for their part in the trial, Judge Goss said they could contact the court if they wished to know the sentence, saying he was letting Morgan have time to put his affairs in order "before he begins what you will appreciate is a rather substantial prison sentence."

During the six-week trial the jury heard new partners in the firm were told Mrs Morgan had qualifications as a solicitor and as an accountant, in fact she had neither, but her position enabled her to steal by putting false chits through accounts.

Company cheques were then used to pay credit card bills run up for hotels, designer clothes and meals at the couple's favourite restaurants including Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons in Oxfordshire and the Box Tree at Ilkley.

Their high living including a family holiday for five to Antigua in 2003, costing more than 20,000, and later the same year a skiing trip in the Alpine resort of Courchevel including a flight to France by private jet from Leeds Bradford Airport.

Money was also spent on an expensive property, The Manor in Alwoodley, Leeds, refurbishing the house which became their home, its gardens and grounds including a security system.

The jury heard Morgan also lied to his partners that trips to London and New York were to get his wife treatment for a rare form of cancer or blood disorder.

He claimed in evidence that he had believed from her that she was genuinely ill and he had not intended to mislead anybody.

Morgan also said he also understood from his wife that money funding their lifestyle came from her private wealth.

Although two of her sisters worked at the legal firm as cleaners he said he did not read anything into that.

"I just thought it was Ann helping them out."