An Aberdeen lawyer who embezzled £120,000 from a pensioner with dementia has been jailed for two years.
John Sinclair, 69, stole the money from the woman after being made her power of attorney in 2014.
The woman, who was in her 90s, was living in a nursing home.
Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard that colleagues at James & George Collie Solicitors uncovered his dishonesty after a cashier detected an unfamiliar account linked to the victim’s finances.
Sinclair – who was acting as a power of attorney and not as a solicitor or partner of the law firm – attempted to cover up his crimes by falsely insisting she had given him permission to transfer money to himself from her accounts.
The firm referred the matter to a lawyer at another practice, who then alerted the Law Society. A subsequent probe resulted in Police Scotland being alerted.
A search of Sinclair’s office led to the discovery of a £66,000 tax demand from HM Revenue & Customs.
After being confronted, Sinclair was said to have repeatedly deleted computer entries in an attempt to cover his tracks.
The court heard that he also provided officials at the Law Society with a note written by himself saying he had authority to borrow money from the woman’s accounts. However, the note was not signed by his victim.
Sinclair was sentenced on Tuesday after previously being found guilty of embezzlement and attempting to defeat the ends of justice.
Duncan Love, a partner at James & George Collie Solicitors, said Sinclair had been a partner at the firm for about 15 years.
He said staff were “deeply shocked and saddened” by Sinclair’s wrongdoing when it came to light and were “pleased” with the court’s verdict.
Mr Love added: “Although Sinclair’s defence criticised some of us for acting as amateur sleuths, in truth it was due to the exceptional alertness, diligence and indeed detective skills of members of the firm that his wrongdoing was detected, halted, reported to the relevant authorities and a full recovery of the £120,000 taken effected.
“As the evidence revealed, Sinclair acted as holder of a power of attorney, not as a solicitor or partner of our firm; he kept the existence of the accounts hidden and his actions could have been perpetrated by any attorney so acting.”
Mr Love said James & George Collie Solicitors has been serving Aberdonians faithfully for more than 180 years and would continue to do so.
Alison McKenzie, procurator fiscal for Aberdeen, said: “This was a brazen and egregious betrayal of trust by a lawyer who took advantage of his position to embezzle money from an elderly lady who had dementia.
“John Sinclair carried out a calculated and heartless deception on someone who was mentally incapacitated.
“This conviction shows that prosecutors will seek to secure convictions without fear or favour to expose criminality by those who work in the justice system.”