One ‘fake’ lawyer jailed as serial ‘genuine’ crooked lawyers escape justice system. A CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM that sends a fake lawyer convicted of fraud to jail for FOURTEEN YEARS yet allows genuine solicitors to escape criminal prosecutions for involvement in similar activities including multi million pound legal aid frauds, serial embezzlement of client funds, and almost unquantifiable client rip-offs per annum, can easily be said to be operating one law for the protection of its own, and another for outsiders.
This marked contrast of how ‘justice’ is applied to those in society who deceive the public has been brought into focus yet again with the conviction last week of fake lawyer Giovanni di Stefano on 25 charges including deception, fraud and money laundering between 2001 and 2011 at London's Southwark Crown Court. Di Stefano also pleaded guilty to another two counts of fraud and a further three counts were ordered to lie on file.
The court heard Di Stefano, who never qualified as a genuine solicitor yet had been passing himself off as a bona fide legal professional for years, and had been allowed to represent people in court on previous occasions, had regularly taken significant amounts of funds from clients, and then failed to proceed their cases.
The Daily Record newspaper reported Judge Alistair McCreath, the Recorder of Westminster noted there were many offences over significant periods of time.
The fact the victims, which included a disabled man seeking damages for the loss of an arm, were all "desperate and vulnerable" and faced losses which were not just financial but also included the "raising and dashing of false hope" were aggravating factors, the judge said.
He conned clients out of millions of pounds by setting himself up as a lawyer when he had no legal qualifications and was not registered to work as a lawyer in Italy or the UK. He used the Italian word "avvocato" on business cards, letterheads and identification documents to give clients - and the judiciary - the impression he was an advocate.
The judge told di Stefano: "I recognise that you did not actively seek out those whom you defrauded. They came to you. You did not approach them but there is more than one kind of predator.
"Some predators hunt down their victims, others lie in wait for them. Your victims in this case were all desperate people and people who, because of their desperation, were vulnerable."
The judge also noted that, while this case is about money, "it is also about something different and great - it is about the real distress you caused to so many people". “You had no regard for them nor for their anguish," he said. "Your only concern was to line your own pockets."
The harm that di Stefano inflicted was "in financial terms alone high", said the judge. The judge said di Stefano had "lied" to his victims about what he was capable of and who he was. His crimes were "planned and persistent" and some of his attempts to defend his behaviour in court amounted to "breathtaking cynicism", the judge noted.
Di Stefano, of North Stream, Marshside, Canterbury, Kent, was found guilty of nine counts of obtaining a money transfer by deception, eight counts of fraud, three counts of acquiring criminal property, two counts of using a false instrument, one count of attempting to obtain a money transfer by deception, one count of obtaining property by deception and one count of using criminal property.
He also pleaded guilty to stealing £150,000 compensation that should have gone to a man who had lost an arm in a car crash. The money was due as part of an insurance policy but di Stefano had it paid in to his business account and "duly stole it". This was a "wicked" crime and is one which "stands in a league of its own", according to the judge.
The bogus lawyer also admitted defrauding engineer David Brown and his family of £160,000 including the £75,000 life savings of his partner's mother. This case also involved £20,000 costs which were not paid out. Due to the "utterly wrong" advice that di Stefano gave him - "to protect your own position" - he lost his home and his job.
Tricia Walsh Smith, a reality tv star and former client of di Stefano, caught out the fake lawyer on camera in a sting and took him to task over his actings on her own case. Ms Walsh Smith published a video of the encounter on the You Tube video sharing website, which was taken down after she was threatened by the judge with contempt of court proceedings for publishing the video, being told it could ruin di Stefano’s right to a fair hearing. The video footage has since been re-uploaded to You Tube, here : Conman Giovanni Di Stefano STUNG by Tricia Walsh Smith
While an English court sent di Stefano to jail for his crimes, much of what he did is highly reminiscent of the activities of increasing numbers of genuine, yet rogue solicitors throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK, who treat their clients in much the same way.
The now familiar tale of genuine solicitors making fanciful claims to their clients, claims which are never fulfilled after years of fees are taken from the desperate & vulnerable, solicitors who defraud clients of large sums of cash, property and other assets, and of course, not forgetting those solicitors who defraud the public purse of millions of pounds in fraudulently claimed legal aid fees, usually never result in a single criminal prosecution.
As the public are now increasingly aware, most ‘genuine’ solicitors who face complaints from clients about fraud, embezzlement and serial rip offs usually escape with a slap on the wrist and a pat on the back courtesy of institutions such as the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal and the Law Society of Scotland.
It should therefore not be forgotten that on all the available evidence of how genuine solicitors regulate themselves, it is a chilling fact that if di Stefano had been a genuine lawyer, the probability is he would not have been convicted of any crime whatsoever and just as in cases involving the likes of the notorious John G O’Donnell and hundreds of other ‘genuine’ solicitors who have toxic, yet secret complaints histories involving complicated frauds, embezzlement and negligence, clients would have received no return and no justice for their woes.
The Sunday Mail reports the latest on the Di Stefano case :
By Russell Findlay Sunday Mail 31 Mar 2013
FAKE lawyer Giovanni di Stefano claimed his dad was murdered by British spies in a bid to cheat justice. Former Dundee director Di Stefano, 57, made the claim during his trial at London’s Southwark Crown Court.
He said his dad – who died of natural causes in Italy on the day Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006 – was murdered with an ice pick. He claimed the killing was revenge for him being the dictator’s lawyer.
The officer whose seven-year investigation brought Di Stefano to justice was Detective Constable Jerry Walters of City of London Police.
DC Walters said: “There are no depths he wouldn’t have sunk to in order to get off. “He said the British security services had murdered his dad with an ice pick because of his own involvement with Hussein. “We discovered that his dad did die in Italy on that date but it was of natural causes. “It also emerged that Di Stefano only reported the murder allegation in Italy four days before his trial was due to start. “So he waited six years after his dad’s death then made a false allegation that he had been murdered to try and get off.”
Di Stefano was found guilty of 25 charges then admitted two more.
He claimed be a multi-millionaire “Devil’s advocate” who represented major criminals, dictators and terrorists including Osama bin Laden and Balkan warlord Arkan.
Four charges related to reality TV star Tricia Walsh-Smith, who was delighted to see him thrown behind bars. She said: “I think he was shocked. I think he believes he has special powers but he’s as mad as a hatter. “He seems to think he hasn’t done anything wrong and that he’s the victim.”
The fantasist even told Walsh-Smith that he had bedded Hollywood stars. She said: “He told me that he slept with Sharon Stone and then gave her the role in Basic Instinct. It was all fantasy. “When I met him in 2011, I was going bankrupt and he took everything I had left. He was incredibly plausible.”
Nine years ago, the Sunday Mail revealed that Di Stefano was accused of bankrolling Serb war crimes in the former Yugoslavia. Di Stefano, of Canterbury, mounted a bid to buy Dundee FC but eventually quit Scotland.