Lawyer Sentenced For Stealing Almost $2 Million From 'Vulnerable' Clients
A Perth lawyer who stole almost $2 million from her "trusting" and "vulnerable" clients has been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years jail.
Helen Marie Tolson used the money to pay off debts, invest in her husband's failing business and buy two new cars.
The 45-year-old mother-of-three was working as a solicitor at her father's firm at the time.
She pleaded guilty to nine counts of stealing, including taking almost $1 million from the account of one elderly client, and more than $750,000 from the estate of a dead woman.
When relatives of one victim questioned her about the lost funds, Tolson fabricated a letter from the National Australia Bank which claimed bank employees were being investigated over the theft, even creating a fake lawyer named "Claire James" to back up the claims.
When a client contacted "Ms James", Tolson pretended to be her on the phone.
In sentencing, Judge Belinda Lonsdale said Tolson's "despicable behaviour" and "gross dishonesty" had "no doubt broken (her clients') trust in the legal system".
She said a lengthy sentence was necessary to send a strong message about elder abuse.
Tolson has been banned from practicing law, she will be eligible for parole after five-and-a-half years behind bars.