Northern firm accused of £1m legal aid scam

A COURT heard last week how a North West solicitor and three members of his staff, who were allegedly involved in defrauding the Legal Aid Board out of more than £1m, operated what was in effect a production line for manufacturing bogus claims.

In a process staff at the law firm's offices in Leigh and Bolton called “file building”, thousands of files supposedly built up over a number of months were made up in one sitting at a word processor, Liverpool Crown Court heard.

Typically, 50 or 60 were made up in one day but one computer operator claimed she managed to build 200 bogus files in a day – generating £16,000 in what had become “almost a factory process”, alleged Peter Openshaw, prosecuting.

In the dock were Grosberg and Co's founder and senior partner Gary Grosberg, welfare department manager Francis Jones, and administrator David Levy.

It is claimed that they exploited the system of free surplus EU meat and butter available to those on benefits and by helping in its distribution had thousands of people unwittingly sign green forms requesting legal advice.

Grosberg and Co volunteered to conduct the administrative work for the distribution of the meat and butter, and had people on benefits sign green forms and give their national insurance numbers when they turned up to claim their share of butter and meat. These were then processed to claim legal aid. Where necessary, signatures were forged on the bogus files which were manufactured to give the appearance of a genuine operation, and to which a whole department was effectively given over, Openshaw alleged.

The trio deny all the charges, particularly conspiring together and with Jones' deceased wife, Theresa Jones, between 1 April 1989 and 21 April 1994, to defraud the LAB. The case continues.