A CONMAN who posed as a solicitor before using £250,000 of client funds to buy a business he could not afford, has been jailed for more than two years.
Geoffrey Lloyd, 60, ran Swansea Legal Services on Mansel Street offering services similar to the Citizen's Advice Bureau.
Lloyd, of Glan yr Afon Road, Sketty, who has a law degree but no formal legal training, then attempted to buy an existing firm, Peter J Williams based in Gorseinon.
A price of £340,000 was set, with an agreement for a deposit of £2,500 and a payment of £237,500 was to be paid initially as well as quarterly payments for the rest of the amount.
When that payment did not arrive, Mr Williams continually contacted Lloyd until finally 10 days later, he sent a cheque for the £237,000. Lloyd instructed the bank to pay out the money by taking funds from his client fund to meet the cost.
He was arrested after an investigation by South Wales Police's Economic Crime Unit and stood trial at Swansea Crown Court after pleading not guilty.
Although Lloyd represented himself at trial, barrister James Jenkins appeared for him at his sentencing after he was convicted of two counts of fraud.
Mr Jenkins asked Judge Paul Thomas to impose the least possible custodial sentence and said his client had already suffered a "fall from grace" and had lost his good name.
While Lloyd had taken exception to being called a conman during the trial, Judge Thomas told him "that is exactly what you are".
"You decided to purchase Peter J Williams, that was never a purchase that you could afford to," said the judge.
He said Lloyd had applied for loans in the "arrogant hope" he could dupe the Natwest bank and then use that money to repay £250,000 of funds he had taken from the firm's client fund. The judge sentencing him said his transactions with the bank were "arrogant" and "blatantly dishonest". The judge said he had gone into negotiations with Mr Williams knowing he had no finance in place and no way of obtaining it. "You were incompetently devious," said the judge.
"You used £250,000 of client funds knowing it did not belong to you and as it was client funds it should have been sacrosanct," he added.
"I do not believe you acted entirely out of greed, I believe a great deal of it was sheer arrogance and misconceived ambition. You wanted to be what you couldn't become," he said.
"You wanted to become a solicitor. You misguidedly thought you were clever enough to get away with it," added Judge Thomas. "You did not achieve your ambition of becoming a solicitor. You would in any view be a wholly unfit and improper person to become one," said the judge.
He added that as well as the financial implications of the offence, his fraud had also affected his former colleagues, who the judge said had their "careers blighted".
"Clients also had the concern as to what had happened to their money and Mr Williams, having no doubt looked forward to retirement will have had the anxiety of not knowing what was going to happen," he added. He said the general public had to have confidence in solicitors.
"This has caused untold anxiety and misery to a large number of peoples," said the judge, before jailing Lloyd for two and a half years.