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A lawyer has been jailed for his part in helping a criminal landlord to fraudulently build a buy to let property empire.
Ross McKay, 39, was the conveyancing solicitor who gave a ‘veneer of respectability’ in a series of illicit properties deals masterminded by Scott Rowbotham.
Businessman Rowbotham, of Stalybridge, Greater Manchester, managed to build up a portfolio of 88 properties worth around £10.8 million with the help of McKay.
McKay worked for Parker Birds law practice in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire after qualifying in 2004.
The lawyer carried out the conveyances on a ‘no questions asked basis’ for 81 of the criminal properties belonging to Rowbotham, who had claimed to be an operations manager for a TV company with a salary of £48,000 a year.
However, the fake pay slips shown to obtain mortgages covered up the reality – that he had only declared £1,000 in income and £18.20 in tax over 11 years.
The deception allowed Rowbotham to build up a large property portfolio and to live lavishly off the proceeds of around £500,000 per year.
McKay was arrested in 2014 during an investigation by police and tax officials into the financial affairs of Rowbotham and his associates.
It also emerged that the lawyer had also been laundering money for a shell company used as a front by crimelord Billy Black who is currently serving 22 years in jail for fraud and drugs offence.
Despite denying any wrongdoing, McKay was convicted at Manchester Crown Court of money laundering following a seven-week trial.
The judge sentenced the lawyer to seven years, saying: ‘You were expected to be of the utmost integrity and honesty in your role. Any applicant for a solicitor must comply with 10 practices, including to uphold the rule of law, act with integrity, and comply with legal obligations.’
He continued: ‘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.