Grieving families fleeced out of thousands of pounds bequeathed in late relatives’ wills by Wigan 'legal consultant'

A grandad kept thousands of pounds owed to two grieving families as he tried to prop up his failing business, a court heard.

Thursday, 6th May 2021, 11:15 am

Alan Carson, of Longden Road, Ashton, described himself as a “senior legal consultant” and offered his services as an advisor or facilitator in connection with wills, probate and the estates of people who had died.

But he actually had no legal qualifications and was hiding his financial problems from his clients.

Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court heard yesterday that Carson traded using four corporate titles - Bespoke Legal Services, Bespoke Probate Services, Bespoke Execution and Trustee Services, and Ashton Law.

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Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court. Pic: Google Street View
Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court. Pic: Google Street View

Adam Watkins, prosecuting, said Carson’s companies were in “significant financial difficulty” by 2017.

The court heard Gary Roscoe found a will prepared by Bespoke Legal Services after the death of his mother Renee Roscoe in 2017, in which he was the sole beneficiary and Carson was the trustee.

He met Carson and agreed he could have power of attorney and professional fees of just under £2,000.

Carson told him he was legally required to hold £3,000 from the estate to cover any outstanding matters, with the money due to be returned later.

Mrs Roscoe had savings of £76,000 and when her son had still not received it after 12 months, he threatened to call the police.

Mr Watkins said: “It was following those threats that the defendant transferred just over £70,000 to Gary Roscoe.

“Gary Roscoe was shortly thereafter notified of the bankruptcy of the defendant’s company and that he was a creditor for the remaining £6,000.”

The court heard Carson had kept Mrs Roscoe’s money in his firm’s bank account to cover other expenses.

Carson, 68, had actually used money from another client to pay Mr Roscoe.

Thomas McLoughlin had £81,000 when he died in 2017, which was left in a will prepared by Bespoke Probate Services.

Carson had become close to Mr McLoughlin and his family and even went to his funeral, the court heard.

His family “completely trusted” him and he applied for a grant of probate, but told relative Lorraine Beswick there may be complications.

By February 2018, the family became concerned Carson was not dealing with the estate properly as they were receiving letters about unpaid bills.

When they started to make their own checks, they were “alarmed” to find posts about him online from other clients and discovered the bank had already closed Mr McLoughlin’s account.

Carson was arrested and interviewed in May 2019, when he accepted he had financial difficulties and used Mr McLoughlin’s money to pay Mr Roscoe. He described himself as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, the court heard.

He denied having spent the money on anything extravagant, other than paying for a Range Rover.

Carson was charged and pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly retaining money received in his capacity of executor of the estates.

Mr Watkins said other families had also suffered “significant loss” and contacted either the police or Action Fraud, but charges had only been brought for these two cases.

The court heard Carson had previous convictions from 1994 of dishonestly obtaining money by purporting to be from a reputable company.

He also had a history of corporate insolvency.

Defending, Peta-Louise Bagott read a letter in which Carson expressed his “sincere apologies” to his family and the families of his clients.

Carson’s wife Susan died from coronavirus in September, not knowing whether she would be charged for the offences, and he described her as going through “19 months of hell”.

He accepted he had “betrayed the trust” of the Roscoe and McLoughlin families and caused them “stress and anguish”.

The court heard Carson had still not told his three adult children about the court case and he was “deeply embarrassed” by his actions.

Carson had no plans to start another business or return to the industry, she said.

Miss Baggott said: “This, I think particularly the loss of his wife, has reminded him how short life is. He wants to focus on life with his children and grandchildren.”

Sentencing, Judge John Edwards said: “These people trusted you implicitly and they saw you, to use Mrs Beswick’s words, as a ‘decent person’, and you even attended Thomas McLoughlin’s funeral. It was devious, it was sophisticated and it was sustained. You played on people’s emotions, helping people to set up a trust to protect their savings and provide probate, when quite the opposite was the reality.”

He jailed Carson for 18 months, suspended for two years, and ordered him to do 20 rehabilitation activity days. Carson was also disqualified from being a company director for 12 years.

Judge Edwards said: “This has been a very, very close call. If it wasn’t for your candour, the delay and your depression, and I have been particularly moved by your plight of your wife dying, I would have no hesitation in sending you down.”

A Proceeds of Crime hearing was scheduled for September 16.

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