first_imgA 56-year-old solicitor has been sentenced to eight years in prison for his part in fraudulent investment schemes which netted millions of pounds over eight years.  Leeds Crown Court heard that Stephen Charles Pickard, formerly with Yorkshire firm Lupton Fawcett, had given ‘a veneer of respectability’ to frauds perpetrated by Keith Wharton and his son Lee, and had dragged the firm’s good name ‘into the mire’.Pickard was jailed for eight years after being found guilty of two offences of fraud by false representation and concealing criminal property.Wharton, 60, described as the ringleader, was jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty to five offences of fraud by false representation. In a five-month trial, the court heard that as well as lending credibility to the scams, Pickard had threatened to sue disgruntled investors seeking to get their money back. Judge Guy Kearl QC, said many of the victims had been left in poverty as a result of the offending.In a statement, Richard Marshall, Lupton Fawcett’s managing director, said: ‘We are dismayed that Pickard misused and abused the good name of our firm; he did so without our knowledge or authority. Once we became aware of the seriousness of the misuse we made our regulators aware of Pickard’s unauthorised actions and he departed the firm shortly thereafter.’‘At no point was our firm in any way involved in Pickard’s offence. I and my fellow directors are appalled at Pickard’s conduct and very much regret his former association with our firm and the damage done to those affected by his criminal activities.’The Solicitors Regulation Authority placed conditions on Pickard’s practising certificate in August, including a prohibition on his undertaking ‘any work relating to investment schemes’. A spokesperson for the SRA said: ‘Now that the criminal proceedings are complete, we will await notification from the court before deciding on appropriate action.’last_img