Exeter County Court has ordered that Simon Michael Armitage, a retired solicitor, be subject to a 15 year Bankruptcy Restriction Order for misappropriating funds from his clients accounts, overcharging clients and falsifying his records to cover up his actions.
Mr Armitages restriction follows an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Mr Armitage (65) is therefore bound by the restrictions set out in insolvency law that a bankrupt is subject to until they are discharged from bankruptcy normally 12 months until 2030. In addition, he cannot manage or control a limited company during this period without leave of the court.
The investigation found Mr Armitages misappropriations occurred over the course of four years between 2009 and 2013.
The investigation also found that between July 2009 and December 2013, Mr Armitage transferred money from his clients accounts to himself, his creditors and other clients from whose accounts he had previously misappropriated funds. The majority of the misappropriations occurred in probate estates and the victims were most often the recently bereaved beneficiaries. He falsified his ledgers and cheque books to cover up what he had done.
In addition to the misappropriated funds, he owed private lenders, banks, trade suppliers, government departments and credit companies at the date of his bankruptcy order.
His actions came to light as a result of a complaint after he joined another law firm.
Commenting on the restriction, Catherine Newell, Assistant Official Receiver, said
Mr Armitage was in a position of trust and was relied on by his clients.
The seriousness of Mr Armitages conduct warrants the maximum restriction and sends a clear message to others in his position on the consequences for abusing such a position of trust: they will be investigated by the Insolvency Service and removed from the business environment for a significant period of time.
On 21 February 2014, Mr Armitage petitioned successfully for his own bankruptcy and a Bankruptcy Order was made against him. His total debts currently stand at 1.01 million.
Mr Armitage has already appeared at a preliminary hearing in Exeter Crown Court and has been charged with ten offences of fraud and one of forgery. The case has been adjourned until July 2015.