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Blackburn financial adviser stole £500,000 from clients
5:30pm Saturday 20th October 2012 in News
A FINANCIAL adviser who stole more than £500,000 from his clients has been jailed for five years.
Stephen Smalley skimmed cash from five customers’ investments, including his confused dementia suffering father-in-law, while working as a financial services manager at Forbes Solicitors.
The 49-year-old from Blackburn had worked for the firm for 19 years when he committed a ‘treble breach of trust’, Preston Crown Court heard.
Prosecutors said Smalley admitted helping himself to cash for nine years from clients he decided were ‘wealthy enough not to notice’.
He had a sophisticated technique of hiding his thefts, which included deleting paperwork, so as not to tip off colleagues or the firm’s compliance officer, the court heard.
Smalley creamed off £524,440, including £28,857 from his father-in-law, while offering advice on savings and investments, mortgages, personal pensions and retirement planning and income protection.
His crimes only came to light earlier this year after he tried to leave the company to live on his ill-gotten gains, the court heard.
When asked to brief staff about his personal work with a number of clients as part of a routine handover procedure, he failed to do so, which aroused the suspicion of his bosses, prosecutors said.
Checks then revealed he had been moving funds into his own account, generating interest for himself, and Forbes informed the police.
It is understood that Smalley, of Roe Lee Park, had not spent any of the money.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of theft between April 10, 2003 and March 30, 2012 and one count of transferring criminal property.
The court heard that the joint managing partner of Forbes’ Preston branch, Winston Hood, had made sure none of its clients had lost out as a result of Smalley’s actions.
All the money had now been accounted for, with Forbes being the only people to lose £6,000 and damage to its reputation.
Appearing in court in jeans and a waterproof jacket, Smalley gave no reason for the theft.
Tom Lord, defending, said: “My client has offered no reason as to why he committed this crime. He had everything a middle class man with a family and home could want. “He was not in debt or gambling and he was not having an affair.
“He has shown complete remorse. His actions have caused him huge embarrassment and he has lost his job, his marriage and his children.”
Judge Graham Knowles QC told Smalley the nature of his crimes meant a prison sentence was inevitable.
He said: “This was a treble breach of trust, defrauding your colleagues, your clients and your family.
“Your colleagues were a model of restraint in their witness statements. But that weekend it all came out will live in their memory as the worst in their lives.
“You received a good salary, but I think you wanted to live a life with less effort.
“You collected money over a nine year period until you decided you had enough to retire and live on. You did your best not to get caught but it was the exit strategy that let you down.”
Smalley was sentenced to four years in prison for theft from an employer, plus one year to run consecutively for the theft from his father-in-law.
He was also sentenced to a year behind bars for transferring criminal property to run concurrently.
John Barker, joint managing partner at Forbes Preston office, said: “I can confirm Smalley is a former employee. He was dismissed after an internal investigation.
“No client has ultimately suffered any formal loss.”