Hove legal secretary admits stealing nearly £500k

Posted On 25 Nov 2011 at 6:35 pm

A legal secretary has admitted the theft of almost £500,000 while working for a law firm in Hove.

Leanne Harris, 25, pleaded guilty to stealing £484,000 at Lewes Crown Court today (Friday 25 November) and will be sentenced on Friday 27 January.

She defrauded £419,000 from the client account of a woman called Joan Watson when she worked at Arscotts, the solicitors, in Lansdowne Place, Hove, from 2008 to 2010.

The firm went into administration earlier this year with the loss of 36 jobs, partly as a result of Harris’s crime. It is, however, still trading from the same offices in Hove with more than 20 staff.

Harris, who lives in Gildredge in the village of Whitesmith, near Hailsham, stole the money from Joan Watson’s client account by writing cheques in the name of Mr Harris.

She also stole £64,000 between August 2007 and April 2010 from a woman called Miriam Turnbull.

Harris had assumed power of attorney over Miriam Turnbull before joining Arscotts.

Her barrister Lewis Power said in mitigation that she was deeply ashamed and had since repaid about half the money with help from her family.

He said that she had been trying to cope with her husband’s psychotic personality.

They had been struggling to pay their bills, including a loan and a mortgage.

At the same time her father was suffering from bowel cancer and her mother had a nervous breakdown, Mr Power said.

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