Solicitor gets two years for stealing from clients
A solicitor formerly based in Dublin has been jailed for two years for stealing €130,000 from his clients.
Niall Colfer (54), who has since been struck off, stole the stamp duty paid by clients while helping them buy property. He also stole one-third of a Ir£150,000 compensation award from one of his clients.
Colfer acted as a solicitor for 20 years and was running the family practice when the offences came to light. He was struck off as a solicitor by the High Court in 2008 after it emerged he had stolen up to €1.6 million of his clients’ money.
His defence counsel said he had to sell his two homes and an investment property to raise compensation and was living in a “fairly ordinary house”.
Colfer, of Rathdown Park, Greystones, Co Wicklow, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraudulent conversion and two counts of theft at his offices in Donaghmede Shopping Centre between 1999 and 2004.
He was jailed yesterday at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court for taking €130,000 from four clients. He had originally taken a trial date but entered a guilty plea earlier this year.
Judge Martin Nolan said the thefts were “deeply reprehensible” and the most serious issue was the breach of trust. “Clients are entitled to expect an honest solicitor,” he said. “Unfortunately these clients didn’t find an honest solicitor.”
The judge said there were several strong factors in Colfer’s favour but he had to pay a “heavy price” for letting down himself, his clients and his profession. “No man can escape a custodial sentence when it involves such a breach of trust,” the judge added.
The thefts were uncovered when Colfer went on holiday in October 2004 and a locum solicitor filled in for him.