The former Ince & Co partner jailed yesterday for defrauding the firm attempted to obtain an OBE by faking letters hailing him as a cancer charity hero, it has emerged.
The former global head of energy at the firm, Nathan ‘Andrew’ Iyer, was sentenced to four years and eight months at the Old Bailey yesterday after being found guilty of defrauding the firm and its clients of £2.8m (7 Feburary 2013).
The firm, which first reported Iyer to police in July 2010 (30 July 2010), said yesterday that its clients had been reimbursed.
The lawyer said he had originally taken the money to make ends meet when he was an assistant solicitor, but his spending started to spiral and the theft became habitual. He used the money to buy a racing yacht, flash cars and properties in London and Hampshire. Between September 2009 and June 2010 he spent £600,000 renovating, landscaping and installing a swimming pool at his Hampshire property.
In total, he stole £2.8m from the firm and some of its clients over 12 years.
Iyer became the subect of a fraud squad investigation after the Department of Health (DoH) raised concerns about letters it had received nominating Iyer for an OBE.
The letters came from a woman called Elizabeth Herring, of Wandsworth in London, who claimed to be a “retired cancer research coordinator” who had worked with Iyer. They praised the then solicitor and nominated him for the national honour of an OBE within the field of health and social care.
However, Elizabeth Herring was just one of several fictional characters created by Iyer to help him try to obtain an honour from the Queen.
Iyer’s pseudonymous letters claimed that he had carried out substantial work for cancer charities, including raising £1.8m for Cancer Research UK and donating all the royalties from a book he wrote, which he claimed sold very well, but which in fact made no profit, to the charity. In fact, records showed that Iyer had not donated money from fundraisers or book royalties.
Iyer sent supporting letters to the Cabinet Office under a number of aliases. One came from non-existent cancer sufferer ‘Terry Benjamin’. It told the DoH that lung cancer had stopped the fictitious Terry Benjamin from being able to work and that his insurance company had refused to satisfy his income protection policy to pay 60 per cent of his salary. In the guise of Terry Benjamin, Iyer claimed that he had represented ‘the client’ for free in a legal battle with the insurers, eventually winning him 55 per cent of his salary.
Iyer also wrote to public and legal figures both as Elizabeth Herring and himself, asking for letters of support by claiming that Cancer Research UK was determined to see him honoured but that he needed more recommendations. On several occasions, Iyer even wrote to the DoH as Elizabeth Herring to check on the progress of the application.
In the course of its investigation into the false accounting, the Fraud Squad found that Iyer had typed his letters from the fictional Elizabeth Herring on his computer at the law firm he worked for.
When interviewed about the applications for honours, Iyer told police that he was writing a book on the honours system with a view to showing that it was easy to obtain one falsely.
However, despite allegedly working on the book for four years, he was unable to show any evidence of this and he eventually pleaded guilty to all the charges against him at City of London Magistrates Court on 5 November 2012, following the service of the summons.
Investigating officer DC Mark Cross of the Metropolitan Police’s Central Fraud Squad said: “Iyer displayed an astounding degree of audacity. He abused his position as a solicitor and partner of his law firm to defraud the company and its clients out of millions of pounds, in order that he could live a flash lifestyle. He even faked numerous letters to the Government to try and obtain an accolade he didn’t remotely deserve.
“Iyer showed complete disregard for those he defrauded and a disturbing willingness to use the serious matter of terminal illness to try and win an honour, including by faking a letter from an imaginary cancer sufferer. Iyer’s attempt to fraudulently obtain an honour demonstrates a complete disrespect for those who do merit the award. His sentence is well deserved.”
Iyer was sentenced to four years for false accounting and eight months for two charges of forgery. He was struck off by the SDT last February (7 February 2012).