Legal aid partner jailed for 'wicked' green form fraud

THE FORMER head of a Lancashire firm dubbed a “den of thieves” by a Crown Court judge has been jailed for 15 months for defrauding the Legal Aid Board (LAB) of more than £1m.

Gary Grosberg, whose firm Grosberg & Co was closed down by the Law Society in 1994, was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the LAB at Liverpool Crown Court last week.

The firm’s manager, Francis Jones, was convicted of the same charge and jailed for eight months. Administrator David Levy was found not guilty.

During the 10-week trial, the court heard how Grosberg & Co secured bogus green form claims after volunteering to help distribute surplus EU meat and butter to people on benefit.

On turning up to claim their butter and meat, claimants unwittingly signed the green forms and gave out their national insurance numbers. Afterwards, thousands of bogus files were manufactured on computers in the welfare department.

The court heard that the architect of the scam was Jones’s now deceased wife, Theresa Jones, who Judge David Marshall Evans QC said would have been jailed for five years if she had been convicted.

Grosberg and Jones became involved after her death.

Judge Marshall Evans said that the practice’s welfare department had perpetrated a “most wicked, audacious, almost unbelievable fraud”.

He said it was regrettable there was a tendency for solicitors to overclaim for legal aid work, and that Grosberg’s fate “may be a warning” to others.

Andrew Edis QC, defending Grosberg, said he had been held in high regard by the community but his professional career had now come to an end.

Richard Ferguson QC, counsel for Jones, described him as “one of life’s losers”.

After the trial, Peter Smith, head of the LAB’s investigations section, said green form fraud was the most commonly encountered type of legal aid fraud.

A spokeswoman for the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors said Grosberg’s case would be referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, unless there was an appeal.