A TRUSTED solicitor is today behind bars after swindling more than £300,000 of his clients’ cash.
Disgraced Robert Cutty pocketed about £140,000 and transferred tens of thousands of pounds between customers’ accounts to try to cover up his dishonesty at Harding, Swinburne and Jackson, in Fawcett Street, Sunderland.
The 63-year-old, who was employed at the Sunderland business as a consultant solicitor, claimed he needed the cash to cover “living expenses”.
Cutty, who lives in an old mansion with his family, kept his criminal life from his wife.
Newcastle Crown Court heard he was collared when he was off work due to illness and colleagues realised there were discrepancies on accounts he had handled.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch said: “It came to the firm’s attention in 2010 there were some discrepancies on some matters handled by the defendant.
“This came to the firm’s attention due to a period of absence due to ill health.
“A Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority investigation was carried out and a number of dishonest transactions were identified.”
The court heard in 2003 Cutty had transferred £33,000 from one client’s account into his own.
In 2005, he paid £52,500 from a dead client’s account into his own.
From there he transferred huge sums between client accounts to make up the shortfall before helping himself to another £62,000 before he was caught out in 2010.
Cutty pleaded guilty to four charges of obtaining by deception and five of fraud.
Mr Bunch said: “In total the amount covered by the nine counts is just over £300,000.
“Clearly some of the money was taken by him for his own purpose and some was to cover up earlier dishonest transactions.
“His personal benefit would appear to be in the region of £140,000.”
The court heard Cutty took £50,000 from one client’s account to cover up an error where he paid that amount to a customer in error.
He was arrested and confessed he had taken the cash to cover spiralling living expenses.
Mr Bunch said: “it simply would appear to be a lifestyle lived beyond his means.”
Judge Michael Cartlidge jailed Cutty, whose family, friends and supporters packed the public gallery, for two years.
The judge said: “His problem is he is before the court for offending when he was in a position of trust in relation to clients at the firm.
“His behaviour has damaged the firm in all sorts of ways, not just in the very large cost of extra insurance but the cost of investigating the fraud and reputational damage.”
The court heard all of the clients, including the estates of the two who were deceased, have been refunded.
Cutty had repaid £10,000 at the start of the fraud.
Jamie Adams, defending, handed in a stack of testimonial’s on Cutty’s behalf at the start of the hearing.
Mr Adams said Cutty originally took money as a loan, which he claims a client had authorised before she died.
He used the money to settle a tax bill and his financial plight just grew out of control, which led to him transferring cash between accounts in a bid to cover up the fraud.
Mr Adams said: “There is no lavish lifestyle here at all, nothing of that sort. He doesn’t have anything anymore.
“It is an appallingly sad situation when you consider he was a man of great standing in the community.”