A lawyer who took more than £100,000 from clients at law firm Lawson Lewis Blakers has been jailed for three years.
Joni Parrington, 36, of St Philip’s Avenue, Eastbourne, appeared at Lewes Crown Court for sentencing. She worked at the firm’s Peacehaven office.
The court heard she defrauded clients and used their money to invest in Eastbourne gym Beach Bourne Crossfit.
Parrington, also known as Joni Hobbs, pleaded guilty to six offences of fraud, one offence of money laundering, three offences of fraud by abuse of position, and two of fraud by false representation.
The charges, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an eight month investigation by East Sussex CID into allegations.
Karl Emery, 38, a maintenance engineer, also of St Philip’s Avenue and described in court as Parrington’s boyfriend, had been charged with money laundering but the Crown Prosecution Service decided to discontinue that prosecution before trial.
Jeremy Sogno at Lawson Lewis Blakers said the law firm acted quickly when the matter came to light on January 3 2014.
“We discovered Joni Parrington, a lawyer at our office in Peacehaven, had misappropriated money from four of our clients and immediately informed the police, the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority and our professional indemnity insurers. We have worked closely with them since the discovery.
“As Judge Barnes emphasised during sentencing, Parrington was a long-serving and trusted employee who took care to conceal her actions and committed a gross act of betrayal. As soon we discovered her actions we suspended her. She was dismissed a week later following an internal inquiry.
“We paid back all the money stolen from the four clients on the day of discovery and offered them our sincere apologies. The clients involved suffered no loss. Our clients and professional colleagues have given us great support during this very difficult period.”
Richard Robinson and Mark Goodwin at Beach Bourne Crossfit said they believed the investment was all above board and they were also victims of a web of lies and deceit spun by Parrington.
“She concocted a web of lies and we were in no part connected with that,” said Mr Robinson.
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