Nigel Edwards Secures A Suspended Sentence for his Client Charged with £1m Fraud

Nigel Edwards

Defence Barrister for Matthew Cobley secures his client a 2 year suspended sentence.

Mail Online - 31st January 2019

PPI claims bosses who stole £1 million of client’s money and treated themselves to lavish holidays, luxury cars and private schooling for their children have narrowly avoided jail.

Matthew Cobley and Andrew Whitaker, both 44, lived the high life while fraudulently trading with other people’s cash.

They operated two companies – a law firm Cobley Johnson Partners Ltd and Legal Development Partners – under the umbrella company of Ashworth Law Ltd, in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

The Scam

Leeds Crown Court heard one aspect of their business was reclaiming mis-sold PPI from the MBNA bank for their clients, for which they would take a percentage fee.

However, when one single mother was awarded £32,000 Cobley told her they had won a tenth of that settlement, £3,200 and wrote her a cheque for £2,300 – after deducting his £900 fee.

Prosecutor Stephen Grattage told the court that the MBNA settled all claims by cheques with Ashworth Law as the payee, with the understanding that the money would go into secure cl Instead they moved the money into office funds to pay for staff wages and tax for their insolvent business.

The SRA Intervention

The pair pleaded guilty to misusing more than £400,000 of clients’ money to fraudulently trade between October 2011 and November 2013 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) stepped in after they were alerted by concerned staff.

But a former employee, who helped blow the whistle on Cobley and Whitaker to the SRA, put the figure of misappropriated clients’ cash at closer to £1m.

Outside court, the whistle blower said: ‘On top of their salaries they ran up expenses on the company credit cards.

‘They both had brand new cars – a Mercedes and Audi – delivered with personal registration plates the day before the SRA became involved.

‘They were living well outside their means, with skiing holidays, and private schooling for their children.’

The Sentence

Cobley was sentenced to two years imprisonment and Whitaker to 20 months – both suspended for two years. Cobley must also complete 260 hours unpaid work, and Whitaker 200 hours. Both are banned from being directors.

Nigel Edwards, mitigating for Cobley, said he was ‘a risk taker’ and ‘bullheaded’ and did not foresee the risks cash flow problems could cause the company.

Mr Edwards said: ‘It’s recklessness and stupidity rather than greed to live the high life.’

He said Cobley had intended to reimburse all the clients, but the SRA became involved before he was able to do so.

Compensation for the Victims of the Scam

The SRA paid out £92,970 to clients left out of pocket by Cobley and Whitaker.

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