Accountant stole £183,000 from client
An accountant who swindled a 94-year-old widow out of her £183,000 estate when she was "destitute" in a care home has been jailed for 38 months.
Paul Willis was awarded power of attorney over the estate of family friend Margaret Nunn, Bristol Crown Court heard.
While she spent her twilight years in Winscombe Hall home, Winscombe, Somerset, Willis spent her money on paying off debt, family holidays and designer clothes and charged her £18,000 accountancy fees for the privilege.
FREE WHEATGERM WITH EVERY POND HEATER www.blagdon-water-gardens.c...View details
Protect your pond fish this winter. Purchase the resun 100w pond heater £39.99 from www.blagdon-water-gardens.co.uk and we will give you a pot of Tetra wheatgerm 1l winter fishfood worth £4.99 FREE
Contact: 01934 316673
Valid until: Friday, February 28 2014
She passed away in 2008 and even left him £10,000 in her will, but Willis was rumbled when he informed the pensioner's adopted daughter Valerie Bedecker in South Africa that there was no inheritance.
When challenged by police he told them: "I'm entitled to expect a certain standard of living."
Willis, 51, of Old Banwell Road in Locking, Weston-super-Mare, pleaded guilty to theft in breach of trust from May 2003 to December 2009.
Judge Michael Roach told Willis' barrister: "Let's not beat about the bush. This is very obviously a prison sentence."
The judge told a sobbing Willis: "You stole, over a protracted period, £183,000 from the assets of an elderly lady for whom you were an accountant and executor of her estate, and for whom you had been granted power of attorney. She was a vulnerable woman.
"I find that you had stolen from her to the point at which in the last days of her life she was destitute."
The judge set a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime act on December 19, to confirm Willis' ill-gotten gains and confiscate available assets.
Richard Shepherd, prosecuting, said a special hearing had taken place, focusing on issues in the case, in which Willis' claim that he may have pilfered as little as £25,000 was rejected.
Mr Shepherd said the fully qualified accountant had worked for a major accountancy firm before moving to the West Country and running his own accountancy business.
Mr Shepherd said: "He was highly trained. He was a trusted individual, a senior accountant responsible for junior accountants."
The court heard Willis was a family friend of Mrs Nunn and undertook control of her financial affairs.
Mr Shepherd said Mrs Nunn's death coincided with her running out of money.
He told the court: "Thousands and thousands and thousands was spent on high living while Margaret Nunn's account was being bled dry."
Giles Nelson, defending, said his client had come across as "irritating and arrogant", but stressed the court was not there to "sentence his character".