A solicitor, bank manager and land registry employee colluded to steal vacant homes from the elderly.

In Southwark Crown Court last week a complex fraud was brought to light. Drug traffickers recruited a Land Registry employee, a solicitor and a bank manager to help them defraud developers.

The gang identified homes that belonged to the elderly which appeared vacant. They would put up a sign at the house indicating that the property was being monitored by a fake security company. If no one complained they sold the properties.

The Mail reports that The Land Registry employee stole signatures from titles to help facilitate the transactions. Surjeet Chana, had worked in the Croydon Land Registry for 33 years and had been an upstanding member of the community working with the Prince’s Trust.

The solicitor involved is Charles Spiropoulos, 48, a conveyancer who worked for Andrews and Co solicitors in Peckham and who was adjudged bankrupt on the 15th April 2011. Andrews and Co was intervened and closed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority on the 5th December 2011 and is not related to other firms with a similar name.

Reports indicate that many of the elderly victims lost not only their homes but very personal possessions and memories of their lives at a vulnerable time in their lives.

The police have identified properties valued at £3.8million, across South London, in Wimbledon, Streatham and Purley. Many more homes may have changed hands illegally.

The Mail reports a Land Registry spokesman as saying ‘This is the first time in our history that an employee has been convicted of such a serious fraud offence.

‘Where the fraud got on to the register they will be compensated from our indemnity fund which provides protection for innocent victims.

‘Where the frauds did not get on to the register, we will offer compensation independently of the fund due to the actions of our employee.’

With a member of staff who had thirty three years service and no apparent reason to be corrupted by criminals it must lead everyone who handles large client balances to reassess their own internal risk procedures.

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