It’s a story that has all the glitz, glamour and high drama of an episode of LA Law – but in fact, it’s Queensland, and it’s real life.
As previously reported, criminal defence lawyer Tim Meehan, who represented Daniel Morcombe’s killer Brett Peter Cowan, is accused of stealing nearly $165,000 from his employer, Brisbane firm Bosscher Lawyers.
Meehan, along with his clerk, 24-year old Xanthe Larcombe-Weate, are alleged to have created false invoices, met clients for late-night cash drops and deposited the proceeds into their personal bank accounts.
Meehan no longer works at the firm where he was once a partner; his position having been terminated in August. He has also been removed from the Queensland Law Society’s online directory, and his property frozen by the Supreme Court.
The freeze , sought by Meehan’s former employer Michael Bosscher, is intended to prevent Meehan and his wife from hiding money and selling property.
Mr Bosscher told the Supreme Court only four assets had been located so far. “Of those, three of them are motor vehicles – which, by their nature, are very easy to dispose of,” he said.
Bosscher also submitted: “It is clear that some of the money misappropriated was deposited into [Ms Meehan’s] mortgage account… and it follows that some of the equity in that property is likely to be recovered in due course.”
Police and Crime and Corruption Commission involved
The Crime and Corruption Commission recently executed a search warrant at the offices of Bosscher Lawyers, with Queensland Police Officers and staff from the Commission taking numerous items out of the building.
About a dozen boxes of files, two orange wheelie bins full of materials and computers were put into a large white van.
Police say those items will be analysed in coming weeks to determine whether Mr Meehan will face formal criminal charges.
Lawyers suspected of fraud
Mr Meehan is certainly not the only lawyer currently suspected of fraud.
Gold Coast lawyer Russell Biddle has been accused of stealing more than $1 million of his clients’ money after his firm, Biddle Lawyers (which has since been bought by Slater & Gordon), was entrusted to manage a wealthy woman’s estate.
Mr Biddle is alleged to have made at least three separate transfers from the estate into an unidentified personal Suncorp bank account.
And former Melbourne Lawyer Alan Munt was sentenced to eight years behind bars after being found guilty of a $4.8 million fraud, conducted over a decade.
In New South Wales, fraud is an offence under section 192E of the Crimes Act 1900 which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment. To achieve a conviction, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant, by any deception, dishonestly obtained property belonging to another, or obtained any financial advantage or caused any financial disadvantage to another.
In Queensland, where Meehan and his clerk are being investigated, fraud carries a maximum penalty of 12 years.
Making a complaint about a lawyer
If you have any concerns about the conduct of a lawyer, even if you have no direct or formal working relationship, you can voice them through the Law Institute or Law Society in the relevant state or territory.
In New South Wales, complaints are handled by the The Law Society of NSW, whose website advises:
“Through its co-regulatory role with the Office of the Legal Services Commissioner, The Law Society of New South Wales investigates complaints against solicitors, unqualified practitioners and associates of legal practice.
The Law Society of New South Wales ensures solicitors are ‘fit and proper’ persons for legal practice and undertakes litigation for complaints referred to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) and the Courts.”
Image credit: Brisbane Times