Paralegal embezzled relative’s estate

An advocate's wig.
An advocate's wig.

A trusted law firm paralegal who embezzled more than £40,000 from the estate of her ex-husband’s great aunt was today (Thursday) facing jail.

Alison Jackson’s huge scam was only uncovered when her firm, Thornton’s, one of the largest legal firms in Scotland, audited the accounts of her clients.

They discovered one deceased client’s executry account had paid for two separate funerals.

Jackson later admitted she had used the cash from another grieving family to pay the funeral of Lillian Grant, the family member she went on to steal the huge sum of cash from.

A police probe then examined Jackson’s bank accounts and it emerged she had taken repeated sums - ranging from £20 to £2000 - from Mrs Grant’s bank account and transferred it straight into her own.

She had been granted power of attorney and put in charge of Mrs Grant’s finances in 2006 when the OAP began to suffer from dementia.

Jackson retained control over her money until her death in 2012 - and in 2013 handed £1500 to her ex-husband telling him that was all that was left in the estate.

But in reality there was tens of thousands of pounds in cash sitting there, which Jackson used to pay off spiralling payday loan debts on a monthly basis.

She also failed to tell the Cadbury’s pension scheme, of which Mrs Grant was a member thanks to her late husband’s work for the chocolate firm, that she had died - and continued to have cash from her pension paid in and then transferred on to her for almost three years after her death.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told Dundee Sheriff Court that in all Jackson stole £56,119.32 - £3073.75 from Thornton’s, £40,403.71 from Mrs Grant’s estate and £12,641.86 from Cadbury’s.

She said: “Mrs Grant passed away at the age of 98 and had been living in a care home since 2010 and was suffering from dementia.

“The Jackson family had been happy for the accused to have power of attorney given the expertise she had gained through her employment.

“The accused had unfettered access to Mrs Grant’s bank account through her role as power of attorney.

“From October 24, 2010, on the accused gradually began to transfer money from Mrs Grant’s bank account to her own personal account.

“This continued after Mrs Grant passed away.

“The sum has never been repaid and should have been passed on to her former mother in law, Marion Jackson, following Mrs Grant’s death.

“The accused was spending a significant sum on payday loans, credit cards and store cards to numerous different lenders every month.

“Mrs Grant had received a monthly pension from Cadbury since 1989 resulting from her late husband’s employment with them.

“She failed to notify them that Mrs Grant had died so they continued to pay the pension monthly until they were informed by police Mrs Grant had passed away almost three years ago.

“She continued her employment at Thornton’s whilst embezzling from Mrs Grant.

“Various complaints were made about her work and she went on sick leave in March 2014 before resigning and a full audit was undertaken.

“During that it was noted one of her executry accounts had two withdrawals, both covering the cost of a funeral.

“Thinking this strange the tax accountant working on it found that the money had been paid for Mrs Grant’s funeral.

“She had accounted for the loss in value to the estate by telling its beneficiaries that the value of shares owned by the estate was lower than it in fact was.

“The firm reimbursed the family.

“When she was interviewed she freely volunteered information about the Cadbury pension fund and said due to financial problems and the burden of paying nursing home fees she had allowed the pension to continue to be paid in and used for her own benefit.

“She said she had come to rely on the payments and didn’t want to tell them as it had been going on for too long.”

Jackson, 44, of Shepherd Lane, Arbroath, pleaded guilty on indictment to two charges of embezzlement and one of fraud.

Defence solicitor Theo Finlay said: “She is on bail and I’d ask her status remain the same meantime.”

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael deferred sentence until January for social work background reports and released Jackson on bail meantime.