Ex-solicitor jailed for defrauding clients out of nearly £1m
A former solicitor who defrauded her clients out of nearly £1m has been jailed for three years and four months.
Kimberley Bridge used the money to prop up her struggling law firm, SFN Solicitors, in Burnley, Lancashire.
The 44-year-old, of Cumbrian Way, Burnley, was a partner at the now defunct firm.
Financial irregularities were raised by the Solicitors' Regulation Authority (SRA) after a visit in October 2012, Preston Crown Court heard.
The authority, which struck Bridge off in April 2014, contacted police and a criminal investigation began.
Because of Bridge's actions, the SRA said her company had run up a £186,000 shortfall in its client account by November 2011.
She tried to conceal this, the regulator said, by creating a fictitious property sale, then claiming she was taking the lender to court for failing to transfer funds.
By August 2012, the SRA said there were £714,000 of payments that had not been allocated to the correct clients in the ledger.
Of this, £232,000 had been paid into Bridge's personal account.
After sentencing, Det Sgt Nick Hodgeson from Lancashire Police said he was pleased with the outcome of the "long and complex investigation".
He said Bridge had shown "little empathy for her actions after preying on her victims", some of whom were "extremely vulnerable".
Mr Hodgeson, who said some victims had not been compensated, said: "The public rightly expect that solicitors and those in positions of trust should uphold the highest standards of honesty and integrity.
"Her fraudulent activities have been an extreme breach of that trust."