The Sunday Times this weekend has reported that in June first time buyers Mohamed and Aishah Noorgat have lost £175,000 to criminals posing as a legitimate law firm. The couple’s conveyancers, Action Conveyancing also known as ARC or Abode Solicitors, thought they were dealing with a legitimate solicitors practice M A Manning and Sons which appeared on the Find a Solicitor site.
M A Manning and Sons Solicitors had been the subject of a Scam Alert by the SRA in May 2013.
M A Manning & Sons Limited is an antiques based in Deeside in North Wales and can be found on the Law Society ‘Find a Solicitor’ site. The business is not regulated by the SRA but the SRA regulates a solicitor working there is.
The SRA and Law Society have been criticised for the entry on Find a Solicitor as it does little to distinguish that the business is not a regulated law firm.
David Robinson of Holman Fenwick Willan LLP, who is acting for Mohamed and Aishah, says “the SRA and the Law Society have been singularly unhelpful and defensive. They have offered no support nor advice and still describe today a firm of Pawn Brokers as a "Law Firm" on their Find a Solicitor page”.
The police have confirmed that the fraudster cleared out the account to which the funds were sent the day after the transfer.
Mohamed and Aishah now have limited means of redress. Their lawyer is claiming against Action Conveyancing’s insurance and has cited the failure to use Lawyer Checker as evidence of negligence. Whatever happens Mohamed and Aishah do not have their home and face a long and difficult battle to recover their money.
The Sunday Times points out that a £10 plus VAT check from Lawyer Checker could have prevented this situation. Lawyer Checker would have identified that:
1. the account in question does not have a track record of use in conveyancing;
2. the firm in question is not a regulated law firm despite appearing on Find a Solicitor. The SRA regulates a solicitor working at a business with a similar name;
3. the bank account is based in Croydon, over 200 miles from the given address;
4. there is an SRA alert listed against the fraudulent firm M A Manning & Sons Solicitors; and
5. that no transactions have been carried out by M A Manning & Sons.
David Robinson has established that a search from Lawyer Checker would have “warned them off” sending any money in this transaction. A claim has been made on Action Conveyancing inviting them to restore the funds lost in the transaction and the legal costs incurred in trying to recover their money.
Chris Harris Managing Director of Lawyer Checker said about the case “With over 50 scam alerts from the SRA this year and an increasing number of these claims it is not surprising that firms are being defrauded of clients’ money.
It was only a matter of time for a litigant to claim that the firm is negligent because they didn’t use Lawyer Checker in situations where our service would have stopped a fraud. Had Action Conveyancing used our service they would not have sent the money to this account and the couple would not have lost their money.”
David Robinson has dealt with 5 similar cases in the last few years.
Over 200 firms using Lawyer Checker regularly and the numbers grow every week. Are you not exposed choosing not to conduct a search against the account to which you are sending the money?
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