A Birmingham solicitor cleared last week of defrauding the Legal Aid Board (LAB) of £60,000 has attacked the Law Society for closing down his firm when the allegations were levelled against him.
After a five-week trial, Andrew Mandleberg was found not guilty at Birmingham Crown Court of conspiring to defraud the LAB. He had been accused of teaming up with two businessmen to operate the scam from his firm, Mandleberg & Co. The jury found Peter Lane and Edward Murphy guilty, but decided Mandleberg had not been involved.
After the hearing, Mandleberg attacked the Law Society and the Solicitors Complaints Bureau - now the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS) - for their role in the affair.
"At no time have I seen any evidence which shows I was guilty of any wrongdoing," he said. "I spent 20 years trusting the police, the Law Society and the then Solicitors Complaints Bureau. But there was so much secrecy and even lies surrounding my case that my faith in them has gone completely."
The court heard how Mandleberg was approached with an idea to give housing and benefits advice to the poor living on housing estates. Lane and Murphy moved into Mandleberg's offices, but were not employed by him - although they agreed to split the income from the scheme. Lane and Murphy submitted green forms to the LAB with claims for money they were not entitled to.
The men were charged with conspiring to defraud the LAB in 1997. Murphy and Lane's case was adjourned. They were told by Judge Laurence Marshall to expect a jail sentence.
An OSS spokeswoman said: "The SCB intervened on grounds of suspected dishonesty. There was enough information for the CPS to instigate a major criminal trial."
Mandleberg was suspended from practice in 1995 after being convicted of drink-driving on three occasions.