Dodgy solicitor Ross McKay, who helped a fraudster create a £10.8m property empire with the help of Tameside’s criminal underworld, has been jailed for seven years after a jury unanimously found him guilty of three counts of money laundering.
The conveyancing solicitor was involved with a number of illicit properties deals that helped buy-to-let landlord, Scott Rowbotham, of Stalybridge in Greater Manchester, build up a portfolio of 88 properties in the North West of England, with the assistance of criminals including Billy Black, who is currently serving 22 year for fraud and drugs offences.
McKay, of Wilmslow, Cheshire, who worked for Parker Birds law practise in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, carried out the conveyances on a ‘no questions asked basis’ for 81 of the criminal properties belonging to Rowbotham, who was earning around £500,000 a year in rent from his property empire.
But the landlord accumulated his property empire by lying about his income in order secure mortgage finance to acquire the properties. He claimed he was an operations manager for a TV company with a salary of £48,000 a year. But he had only declared £1,000 in income and paid £18.20 in tax over 11 years.
Manchester Crown Court heard the pair’s scheme yielded just over £10.8m and police managed to seize £3.5m of it in the biggest haul ever recorded in this country.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Rowbotham has been ordered to pay back £3.5m within three months, or face 10 years in jail. The time period can be extended to six months if permitted.
That figure is the highest ever awarded by a court following a GMP financial investigation.
Rowbotham’s property portfolio will now be sold off to recoup some of the money.
Sentencing McKay to seven years in prison, Judge Timothy Smith told him: “These convictions mean you fall short of the qualities expected of a solicitor. You were consistently in breach of each requirement of a solicitor, and failed as your duty to uphold the law.
“In trial you portrayed yourself as being an average solicitor, one that helped to support your family but any outward show of professionalism was a charade.
“You allowed criminal property to be obtained and assisted these people in organised crime.
“You must have known or suspected in continuing to provide them with legal services.
“You were turning a blind eye and you knew the money you were dealing with was criminal property.”
He added: “There has been for you as a solicitor a fall from grace. This will have a devastating effect on your family. The professionalism you had will not be there anymore.”