A lawyer who took more than £100,000 from clients at Eastbourne law firm Lawson Lewis Blakers has been jailed for three years.
Joni Parrington, 36, of St Philip’s Avenue, appeared at lewes crown court for sentencing.
The court heard she defrauded clients and used their money to invest in Eastbourne gym Beach Bourne Cross Fit.
Parrington, also known as Joni Hobbs, pleaded guilty to six offences of fraud, one offence of money laundering, three offences of fraud by abuse of position, and two of fraud by false representation.
The charges, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an eight month investigation by East Sussex CID into allegations.
Karl Emery, 38, a maintenance engineer, also of St Philip’s Avenue and described in court as Parrington’s boyfriend, had been charged with money laundering but the CPS decided to discontinue that prosecution before trial.
Parrington was sentenced to 38 months in prison.
Jeremy Sogno at Lawson Lewis Blakers told the Eastbourne Herald the law firm acted quickly when the matter came to light on January 3 2014.
“We discovered that Joni Parrington, a lawyer at our office in Peacehaven, had misappropriated money from four of our clients.
“We immediately informed the police, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and our professional indemnity insurers. We have worked closely with them since the discovery.
“The first amount was taken in November 2013. The quick discovery of Mrs Parrington’s actions demonstrated the efficacy of our financial controls but we have comprehensively reviewed and tightened our procedures even further.
“As Judge Barnes emphasised during sentencing, Parrington was a long-serving and trusted employee who took care to conceal her actions and committed a gross act of betrayal. As soon we discovered her actions in January 2014, we suspended her. She was dismissed a week later following an internal inquiry.
“We paid back all the money stolen from the four clients on the day of discovery and offered them our sincere apologies. The clients involved suffered no loss.
“Our clients and professional colleagues have given us great support during this very difficult period. Our team of lawyers and support staff have continued to serve our clients as usual since the discovery of this theft. We are very grateful to them for their continuing trust and loyalty.”
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