A respected solicitor plundered £4 million from clients to fund her luxury holidays, vintage wine collection and an “obsession” with clothes.
Linda Box, 67, a senior partner at Yorkshire solicitors Dixon, Coles & Gill, almost caused the firm to collapse after her fraud.
Leeds Crown Court heard that during 12 years of deception, Box, a registrar and a “pillar of the community”, led a lavish life that included £800-a-night stays at luxury hotels and an £800,000 wine collection.
She said she was excessive in her spending. She said it developed into an obsession
Nadeem Bashir, prosecutor
She funded mortgages for friends, paid private school fees for her granddaughter and splashed out on work at her home as well as fancy holidays abroad.
Once, the court heard, £11,000 was spent to take her family to the Edinburgh Festival.
Her scheming even extended to the Church of England as she stole £63,000 in cash from the Bishop of Wakefield’s Fund. Box was jailed for seven years yesterday after admitting 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”.
Nadeem Bashir, prosecuting, said the offences came to light in December 2015 when another partner, Julian Gill, became concerned over a £5,000 payment from a client account.
Further checks revealed sums paid out on a wider scale, including to Box’s American Express account.
The court heard that the Dixon, Coles & Gill building had since been sold off and staff made redundant as a result of Box’s fraud.
The firm, which had offices in Wakefield and Horbury, shut its doors in January 2016 during the fraud investigation.
Box had forged the signature of a fellow solicitor on probate documents as part of her offending and forged the signature of another colleague to access a trust fund.
Some 75 individual client files, many involving estates of deceased, and 10 files relating to the Church, showed misappropriation. Box told police she took the money for her own use and her husband knew nothing.
Mr Bashir added: “She said she was excessive in her spending. She said it developed into an obsession.”
The judge called the scale and enormity of the breach of trust “staggering”.
The mother of one deceased client said: “How can there be a more vile crime than pretending to be my friend when I was obviously overwhelmed with grief?”
Joe Hingston, defending, said Box had been struck off after more than 40 years as a solicitor, adding: “Her reputation lies in ruins.”