Sutton lawyer cleared in expenses fraud trial

A LAWYER from Sutton who was one of three men accused of claiming thousands of pounds in fraudulent Legal Aid expenses has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Lloyd McDonald (68), of Collins Avenue, was acquitted on both counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation in relation to two criminal trials.

But co-defendant solicitor Reuben Ewujowoh (44), from Catford, boss of Rae and Co of Trinity Street, Southwark, was sentenced to five years imprisonment and is expected be struck-off.

A third defendant, Ugandan-born cost draughtsman Robert Odong (33), from Cruickshank Street, Islington, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years and recommended for deportation.

Legal executive McDonald was cleared by the Croydon Crown Court jury on both charges at the hearing on 1st August.

It was alleged that the three lawyers plotted together between 2nd August 2007 and 26th August 2008 to defraud the Legal Aid system - which provides financial assistance to people unable to afford legal representation - in the case of a defendant called Tsafack, which took place at Leicester Crown Court, and between 30th July 2007 and 26th August 2008 in the case of a defendant called Rutayisere at Luton Crown Court.

The plot was exposed by chance when the same Legal Aid determining officer happened to be working on claims for both trials.

A total of £163,769 was claimed for the Tsafack case - more than double that claimed by any other solicitor in the case - even though Ewujowoh had been instructed for up to nine months less than the other lawyer.

All preparation work was charged at the Category A rate of £167.25 per hour and a 200 per cent uplift was successfully claimed on further expenses due to the complexity of the work.

“Mr. Ewujowoh is claiming to work more than 24 hours in a 24-hour period, claiming 26 hours day after day after day,” said prosecutor Janet Weeks.

“The Crown say they sought to get as much as they could, the maximum out of these cases, but what caught them out is that they have done it for two cases side by side and there are not enough hours in the day.”

Describing Ewujowoh and Odong and as ‘remorseless and ruthless in their behaviour’, Judge John Tanzer announced it was clear they overcharged in five other cases - pocketing an extra £430,000.