Saturday, August 26, 2006

Former Scottish lawyer admits stealing £70,000 from disabled client in a now common fraud against clients

From Injustice Scotland :

Ian Catto .. who was a lawyer as well as a Conservative Councillor for Prestonfield & Mayfield, apparently gave up his job as a solicitor in 2002 .. and turned to stealing from a disabled client, until the victim's family found out what was going on.

The Evening News reports that "The court heard that Catto, of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, offered to pay his bills for him. He would also ask Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques saying he would fill in the details later"

Signing blank cheques for a lawyer is always a dangerous thing .... something we at Injustice Scotland would never advise anyone to do.

Just because the person is a lawyer, or an accountant, doesn't mean they should be trusted - in fact, it's quite the reverse, as the victim of Mr Catto's fraud found out - in what is an all too common scam by Scottish lawyers and accountants against their client.

In some cases, lawyers and accountants have softened their clients up with tales of honesty and 'concern' for their wellbeing .. even despicably putting family members against family members, in plots to gain control of their clients money to fund their own lavish lifestyle ... robbing from their client at-will.

One such a case which came to light - as a good example of what also happened to Mr Catto, was when Peter Cherbi - of the Borders, discovered that his late father's accountant - Mr Norman James Howitt, of Welch's Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels, Scottish Borders, took Mr Cherbi's mother's pension book and bank books for himself, on a pretence of 'keeping the money safe from other family members'.

It was then discovered the accounts were being systematically looted by persons who had become associated with Mr Howitt, in cooperation with the late Mrs Cherbi's own lawyer, Nigel Hall of Hawick firm Haddon & Turnbull Solicitors, who had become involved in the fraud against the Cherbi family, until Mrs Cherbi's son found out about it and put a stop to the theft - just like what happened when Mr Catto's family found out about Catto stealing the money.

You can read about the seedy case of well known Borders Accountant Norman Howitt and see the evidence of what he abd a crooked lawyer did to the Cherbi family at :

The incident of Howitt was reported to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, but the complaint and the incident was covered up by the ICAS Director of Legal Services - Dr Tom McMorrow, and Howitt remains an accountant - as well as now, a Director of Eildon Housing in the Scottish Borders, a Board Member of the Borders College at Galashiels, and sits on ICAS Committees - Howitt's reward for being a common thief ... so, this demonstrates that making a complaint against such criminal activity - does no good, until the Police and the media become involved - and you publicise your case as much as possible

Read on for the article, from the Evening News, at :

Crook solicitor stole £70,000 from helpless disabled client

A MAN once seen as a potential future Tory leader in the Lothians has admitted stealing £70,000 from a disabled man.

Former Conservative councillor for Prestonfield and Mayfield, Iain Catto, 41, who is also a former solicitor, pretended to care for Francis Fleming after he became partially paralysed.

Catto, a member of Lothian Regional Council from 1990 to 1994, had pretended to be a close friend of Mr Fleming, 59, and volunteered to pay his bills and organise his life.

But he was regularly withdrawing sums up to £15,000 a time from his client's accounts to fund his own lavish lifestyle. He even sold some of his victim's shares.

To cover up his scam, he had all bank statements sent to his home address. Mr Fleming trusted Catto and even gave him a key to his Craigentinny Road home.

Among Catto's purchases were airline tickets, hotel rooms, meals in restaurants, computer software, £300 worth of goods from Oddbins and haircuts costing up to £30.

Earlier this year, Catto contributed to a book of essays edited by Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser. Catto's essay called for more personal freedom and the decriminalising of drugs.

Fiscal Depute Alison Innes told Edinburgh Sheriff Court Catto had given up his job as a solicitor in 2002. She said: "The accused had given up a well-paid job and no longer had an income to pay for his comfortable way of life so he just stole regularly from Mr Fleming, who was none the wiser."

The court heard that Catto, of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh, offered to pay his bills for him. He would also ask Mr Fleming to sign blank cheques saying he would fill in the details later.

Mrs Innes said that Mr Fleming had been the victim of an attempted murder in 1968 and received a large criminal injuries payment. He was partially paralysed, had memory problems and could not work.

Following the death of his father, Mr Fleming turned to a firm of Edinburgh solicitors - where Catto was a trainee - to help handle his financial affairs.

Catto befriended him and, in 1997, took over the power of attorney from colleagues. He told Mr Fleming that he did not want to accept any payment for the work but would do it as a friend.

"Had it not been for Mr Fleming's son coming home and growing suspicious we can only speculate if the accused would have stopped at all," Mrs Innes told Sheriff Kathrine Mackie.

After Mr Fleming's estranged wife died, he contacted his son in 2003. The son and his family returned to be with Mr Fleming in July 2004.

After the reunion, the group decided to use Mr Fleming's money to move to Spain.

Still trusting the solicitor, they asked Catto to help with the financial affairs wanting to know how much money was available to buy property.

However, Mr Fleming's son started to become suspicious in August 2004, especially after learning that his father signed blank cheques for the solicitor.

He became aware of debit balances on his father's credit card statements.

Mr Fleming's son then arranged for the power of attorney to be transferred to himself to help his father.

He got access to bank statements and realised Catto had been stealing from them.

In court, the former solicitor pleaded guilty to stealing the money between December 2002 and December, 2004. The Court heard that Catto,

now of Atholl Crescent, Edinburgh had sold a flat in the city's Broughton Street to repay the stolen cash.

Sheriff Mackie deferred sentence for background reports

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