A PROPERTY conveyancer from Beckenham has been jailed for five years after stealing over half a million pounds from her employers.
Oonagh Grant, 57, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by false representation and three counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information for personal gain.
In 2011, Grant was convicted of stealing from her employers, a firm of solicitors, by transferring funds into bank accounts over which she had control.
At that time she was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years. She was also issued with an order under Section 43 of the Solicitor’s Act, preventing her from working for a firm of solicitor or being paid by a solicitor’s firm.
In 2013, Grant changed her name by deed poll from Oonagh Grant to Frances Bernadette Grant. Under her new name she secured a position as a self-employed contractor, conducting conveyancing work for a law firm in Lewisham.
She began redirecting funds but was caught and subsequently dismissed by the firm. An audit of Grant’s work showed that she had stolen around £28,000. The company reported the offences to police.
Grant later joined a new law firm in Bromley where she was again employed as a conveyancer. Within months she had gained their trust and began stealing from the company. On this occasion she took around £223,950. She resigned when her employer was contacted by her previous firm and was warned of her activities.
Detectives arrested Grant in December 2015. During the interview she denied all offences and was subsequently released on bail with a condition that she does not work for a law firm.
Despite the court order, and the bail conditions, Grant found employment with a legal firm in Reading, Berks. Again she began stealing funds. When the company was alerted that she was subject to a Section 43 order she was immediately dismissed. An audit conducted by the firm identified Grant again diverting funds, this time into her personal bank account.
Police arrested Grant for breach of bail conditions in October 2016 and she was subsequently charged and remanded in custody.
Grant was later released on bail by the court to allow for her to undergo planned surgery. She was bailed to appear at Croydon Crown Court in November 2016 but failed to appear on account of being “medically unfit”.
The letters supplied to the court purporting to be from Grant’s GP were found to be fraudulent. Grant was arrested in January 2017 on suspicion of fraud.
In all, Frances Grant, also known as Oonagh Grant, stole £536,250 from three companies between 2014 and 2016. Just one of the three companies was able to recover some of the funds stolen. Following sentencing at Croydon Crown Court on Wednesday, Detective Sergeant Daren Walby said: "Grant is a serial fraudster who believed that she was above the law. She even went so far as to send fake GP letters to the courts to delay her trial. I’m pleased that today she has received a substantial sentence, which reflects the severity of the crime and her contempt of the judicial system.”