A financial adviser has admitted stealing more than £500,000 from his clients’ investments and his employers while working at a Preston law firm.
Stephen Smalley offered advice on savings and investments, mortgages, personal pensions and retirement planning, income protection and life cover during his time as a financial services manager at Forbes Solicitors.
But, over nearly a decade, the 49-year-old creamed off £553,297 and wired it into his own bank account.
Smalley, who was fired by Forbes earlier this year when his crimes came to light, admitted two charges of theft at Preston Magistrates’ Court.
The court heard that, between April 10, 2003, and March 30, 2012, while head of the firm’s financial services department at Ribchester House in Lancaster Road, he stole £524,440 belonging to Forbes Solicitors, and between July 1, 2011 and February 3, 2012 stole £28,857 “belonging to another”.
Smalley also pleaded guilty to a charge of money laundering.
It said between April 10, 2003 and March 30, 2012 he “concealed, disguised, converted, transferred or moved criminal property, namely money, representing interest earned from investments made with misappropriated clients’ funds by means of bank payments” to an account in his name.
The Evening Post understands that Smalley’s crimes first came to light when he told the company he was looking to leave the business.
When asked to brief staff about his personal work with a number of clients as part of a routine handover procedure, he failed to do so, which aroused the suspicion of his bosses.
Checks then revealed he had been moving funds into his own account, generating interest for himself, and Forbes informed the police.
It is believed that Smalley had not spent any of the money.
Winston Hood, joint managing partner at Forbes and managing partner of the Preston office, said none of its clients had suffered financially as a result of Smalley’s actions.
He said: “I can confirm that he is a former employee of the firm. He was dismissed after we had conducted an internal investigation.
“A small number of clients who were affected have been personally informed and no client has ultimately suffered any financial loss.”
Smalley, of Roe Lee Park, Blackburn, is currently on bail and is set to be sentenced at Preston Crown Court on October 16.
In the meantime he must inform the police if he intends to leave the UK on holiday or business.
Det Supt John Crichton, of Preston Police, said Smalley could now face jail.
He said: “I think it is important to make employees aware that if they administer the funds of customers wrongly in this manner then they will be brought to justice.
“This man may well go to prison.”