Linda Box stole £4,055,329 over a 12-year deception from the legal firm where she worked
Linda Box, 67, was jailed for seven years after a court heard how the senior partner regularly raided the accounts of deceased clients at historic Wakefield-based firm Dixon, Coles and Gill.
She also took advantage of her role as a “pillar of the church” when she was registrar with the Diocese of Wakefield to steal £63,000 of Church of England cash belonging to the Bishop of Wakefield’s Fund.
Leeds Crown Court heard the total value of the 12-year deception was a staggering £4,055,329.
Nadim Bashir, prosecuting, said Box used the money to fund her “obsession” for buying clothes holding a “special account” with Harrods.
Box was incredibly deceitful, taking cash from the estates of the deceased and using it as her own to fund her lavish lifestyle
Detective Inspector Dan Tillett
She and family enjoyed £800-a-night stays at London’s The Ritz Hotel and bought a collection of vintage wines for her son worth £800,000.
Sums of illegally obtained cash also went on funding mortgage redemptions for relatives, private school fees for her grandchild and landscaping work at her home.
They also enjoyed regular luxury holidays and even forked out £11,000 for a family trip to the Edinburgh Festival.
Linda Box was jailed for seven years after she raided the accounts of deceased clients
Box also paid £236,554 to a marketing and public relations firm which did work for her husband’s firm of funeral directors.
Box stole the money by forging the signature of legal colleagues on probate documents and to access a trust fund.
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She pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud, two of forgery and one of theft.
Jailing her, Mr Justice Blake said it was a tale of misplaced trust “all because of your unrestrained and out of control greed”.
The judge said 75 individual client files, many involving estates of deceased and 10 files relating the church showed misappropriation. She had fobbed off anxious relatives when they made inquiries about such funds diverting the money to herself.
Her firm was forced to shut its doors in January last year after more than 200 years of practising law when a fraud investigation was launched by police.
The court heard that Box used the money to fund her ‘obsession’ for buying clothes
The Solicitors Regulation Authority stepped in four months later to formally prevent the firm from operating.
The court heard the Dixon, Coles and Gill building had now been sold off and staff had been made redundant as a result of Box’s actions.
Her offending came to light in December 2015 when fellow partner Julian Gill became concerned over a missing £5,000 payment from the client account.
Checks revealed other spurious payments including some direct to Box’s American Express card account.
Police were contacted when they discovered over £1m missing and the investigation led detectives to probe her church role and unearth further offending.
When interviewed by police Box admitted taking the money for her own personal use.
Mr Bashir said victims of Box’s offending had been left devastated at the abuse of trust.
He added: “The consequences are enormous.”
Detective Inspector Dan Tillett, of West Yorkshire Police said: “Box was incredibly deceitful, taking cash from the estates of the deceased and using it as her own to fund her lavish lifestyle.
“She preyed on vulnerable people at one of the most difficult times of their lives.”