05.12.2018 at 01:02
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Property Lawyer Given Seven Years For Stealing

A former solicitor has been jailed on 9 charges of stealing from trust accounts.

Helen Marie Tolson, formerly a solicitor for her father's legal firm Tolson & Co, was sentenced last week to 7 years in jail for stealing from trust accounts.

According to FindLaw, among the company's top specialities are:

•  Building & Construction law

•  Buying a Home

•  Selling a Home

•  Estate Planning

•  Conveyancing

Originally charged with 29 counts of stealing, Ms Tolson took about $1.96 million from trust accounts without the proper permission from clients.

The Western Australia District Court heard that approximately $978,000 was taken from the trust account of "an elderly woman in a nursing home".

The court was further told that most of the other money was "stolen from the estate of a deceased woman".

Ms Tolsen then falsified records to try to cover up her crimes.

Her barrister, Sam Vandongen SC, said she "fully understood the gravity of what she had done", and that actions such as falsification of records were done to "stave off the inevitable".

He said that unlike most other such cases, she did not steal to or support a drug or gambling habit, but rather to fix the families financial troubles.

Ms Tolsen is 45 years of age and a mother of 3.

At one point while all this was going on, she was questioned by a relative of one of the beneficiaries of the estate from which she had stolen. She told them the money had been placed in term deposit accounts with a bank.

When the person demanded that the money be paid to the beneficiary, she made up another story and said bank employees had stolen the money.

As a further subterfuge, she wrote a letter posing as a lawyer from the bank names "Claire James", stating that the matter was under investigation. When the recipient phoned the number in the letter, he realised he was actually talking to Ms Tolsen and went to the authorities.

Prosecutor for the State, Peter Phillips, said her offences were "some of the worst" that can be committed by a lawyer, and that they were a "horrific breach of trust".

Mr Vandongen told the court that all the money had been paid back, but that required the sale of a home and a $1 million loan from her father.

Judge Belinda Lonsdale said she accepted that Tolson was deeply ashamed and remorseful, and that from the evidence, Ms Tolsen "presented" as a person with "a big heart" who was always willing to help.

She also said that it did appear Tolson had been motivated by a desire to ease financial pressure on her family, but that there had also been "an element of greed" because she used some of the funds to benefit herself.

Some of the money went to pay off business taxes and to support a business run by her husband. But also some of it bought two cars for personal use.

The judge also excoriated Tolson for stealing from an elderly woman in a nursing home... an act she described as "despicable behavior".

Ms Tolson was sentenced to 7 years in jail, without possibility of parole for 5 1/2 of those years.

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