An Exeter-based solicitor has been jailed after being convicted of fraud.
Simon Armitage carried out the crimes over a period of about three years between 2010 and 2013.
All of the offences took place when Armitage was running his own firm, Armitage & Co, based in Exeter.
It was another legal firm, Kitsons Solicitors, which alerted police to his illegal activities.
Today Simon Armitage was convicted at Exeter Crown Court, having pleaded guilty to nine charges of fraud and one of forgery. He was sentenced to four years.
Simon Armitage founded Armitage & Co in September 1979, operating as a sole practitioner in Exeter for over 30 years, specialising in probate and residential conveyancing work. The firm was acquired by Kitsons in June 2013.
Prior to the acquisition Kitsons undertook all the required and necessary legal checks, including independent assessment of the company’s financial accounts and there was no indication of any financial wrongdoing.
Kitsons Managing Partner, James Cross, said: “Shortly after the acquisition our internal systems detected evidence of financial irregularities on a small number of files brought to the firm by Simon Armitage. We immediately suspended him, alerted Devon and Cornwall Police and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, and launched a full in-depth investigation. Within days we had dismissed Simon Armitage and contacted all his former clients and estates.”
Kitsons’ investigations team, headed by partner Nicholas Johnson, worked closely with Devon and Cornwall Police and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) over several months. Before waiting for criminal proceedings or the SRA to complete its own investigation, Kitsons paid all Armitage & Co’s former clients back.
James Cross said: “Our priority was to look after Armitage & Co’s former clients which is why we made sure they all received the money that had been stolen by Simon Armitage as quickly as possible.
“I want to thank our investigations team, who worked diligently to uncover evidence that we were able to pass on to the police and Solicitors Regulation Authority, which helped secure this conviction.”
Leading Devon law firm Kitsons has headquarters in Torquay, with further offices in Exeter and Plymouth.