Norfolk

'Lottery scam' solicitor Hugh Lansdell is struck off

Hansells in Tombland
Image caption Hugh Lansdell was a senior partner at Hansells law firm in Norwich

A lawyer who took nearly £2m from clients and charities after falling for a lottery scam has been struck off.

Hugh Lansdell, 70, made dozens of payments to secure a fictional £1.825m jackpot fraudsters told him he had won.

A Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal heard a belief in the "guidance of God" led to his "inability to think rationally."

Norwich law firm Hansells, where Mr Lansdell worked, said it had reported concerns and could not comment.

The senior partner received a letter in 2015 telling him he had won a lottery jackpot of £825,000 - a figure which later rose to £1.825m - but he needed to make a payment to release the winnings.

"All this was untrue - the lottery win was a fiction and the individuals... were in fact seeking to defraud him," said the tribunal.

Between August 2015 and July 2017 Mr Lansdell made 59 payments, totalling £1.49m, charged to 29 different clients from the Hansells client account.

It included £532,391 from the estates of two clients who had died. He also sold assets worth £437,790 belonging to two charities and a trust to make further payments.

The money has been repaid by the law firm's insurers, said tribunal documents.

'Power of prayer'

An investigation was launched in May 2017 when a fellow solicitor became suspicious, during which Mr Lansdell claimed the money had gone into a risk-free investment scheme.

He was suspended from the partnership on 2 August and two days later admitted what he had done.

A psychologist's assessment of Mr Lansdell said he had "developed an overvalued belief in both the power of prayer and the guidance of God", leading to to "very serious errors of judgement".

Representatives for the lawyer told the tribunal he was suffering "from a serious mental illness" at the time but held a "genuine belief" in his lottery win.

Striking him off, the tribunal said his misconduct was "very serious... repeated and deliberate".

Mr Lansdell, who was declared bankrupt in November, must pay costs of £27,338.34.

Norfolk Police has passed a file to the Crown Prosecution Service for consideration.

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