BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC)— A High Court judge in Barbados has sentenced a lawyer to five years in jail for stealing nearly BDS$500,000 (J$38 million) from the beneficiaries of a deceased client.
Justice Randall Worrell imposed a nine-year prison sentence on attorney Norman Leroy Lynch,who was convicted of theft and money laundering a year ago. However, with the time Lynch spent on remand and other factors taken into consideration, he will only spend five more years of that sentence in prison.
“This court is of the opinion that type of conduct in this matter must be frowned upon and any sentence should also be construed as a measure of protection to the public from these types of matters,” Justice Worrell said.
In May last year, Lynch was found guilty of stealing BDS$407,634 (J$30.9 million), which were the proceeds of a First Caribbean International Bank cheque made payable to him and belonging to the estate of Arthur O’Neal Thomas between June 22, 2007, and December 21, 2008.
He was also convicted of stealing BDS$50,000 (J$3.7 million) belonging to the same estate between August 18, 2005, and December 21, 2008; and for money laundering, in that he disposed of BDS$457,634 (J$34.7 million) being the proceeds of crime, also between June 22, 2007, and December 21, 2008.
“In this particular case, there was, in effect, a breach of trust in your position as the attorney-at-law for the estate and the sum of $457,000 has been lost to the estate,” the judge said.
“I particularly [point] to what was contained in the victim impact statement . . . and this is what was said: ‘If I think of a phrase to describe how this incident has affected my family, it would be continuously devastating, stressful and traumatic’,” the judge recounted.
“So, it is quite clear this has had an effect on the beneficiaries of the estate of Mr Thomas, who was a client of yours – at least the estate was a client of yours – so the beneficiaries were, therefore, basically the persons to receive the $457,000 which has been, it would appear, apparently lost to the estate. No prospect of repayment to the beneficiaries of the estate looms. The victim impact statement . . . clearly indicates the pain caused by the loss and non-repayment,” the judge added.
Lynch, who is in his 70s, issued an apology to the court in February this year.
“I am sorry about what transpired . . . but . . . I don’t recall anything very much at all,” he said.
Defence attorney Marlon Gordon had previously told that court that Lynch was a “man without means” and, as such, was not in a position to repay the parties involved in the matter.
“In your case, it is highly unlikely, based on what your counsel has said, that you will return to practice or the practice of law. The protection of the public does not arise but clearly, the deterrent effect would arise in respect of this particular matter,” the judge said.
On the convictions for the theft of BDS$407,634 and money laundering of BDS$457 634, Lynch was given a starting sentence of nine years. The starting point for the BDS$50,000 theft was 24 months.
The judge then took into consideration Lynch’s age, the fact that he had no previous convictions and the assessment that he was at low risk of re-offending.
“This court is of the opinion that a downward movement of the starting point of nine years by one year should properly and reasonably reflect the court’s consideration of the mitigating features to yourself,” he said.
Lynch is the fourth lawyer in Barbados to be jailed in recent years for stealing clients’ money.