Disgraced Solicitor Ranbir Dhaliwal was jailed for nine months today (Monday, December 3) for betraying a severely disabled brother and sister who he got to sign away their rights to their home.
Though neither could read or write, Dhaliwal managed to get Clare and John Bartlett to put “their marks” on two important legal documents.
Clare was able to write a ‘C’ for her name and her brother followed dots to write a ‘J’ for his.
The documents gave away any rights they had to stay in their home if their parents were to default on a quarter of a million pound loan and the house in Wyton in Huntingdon was repossessed.
Passing sentence, Judge John Plumstead told the 45-year-old it was a “shocking” case.
Dhaliwal had been recruited by two fraudsters who had persuaded John and Clare’s parents to take out the loan. It was to eventually lead to the parents being declared bankrupt to the tune of £1.3 million.
The Judge told Dhaliwal from Carnoustie Drive, Great Denham, : “For as little as £2,000 you sold your professional reputation and you did so at the expense of extremely vulnerable people.”
He went on “You were willing to sell your status, your honour and professionalism in order to help crooks. That’s what makes it extraordinary.”
Before he was led from the dock to begin his sentence, St Albans Crown Court was told Dhaliwal’s reputation was in tatters and his business was ruined after his staff had walked out on him. He now faces the prospect of bankruptcy.
Dhaliwal, a solicitor of 16 years who is married with three young children and who ran his practice in Woodford in Essex, was appearing for sentence today having been found guilty by a jury in November of one charge of fraud by abuse of position and two charges of fraud by false representation.
At his trial, the solicitor himself told the jury that what happened that day back in January 2008 had been a judgement call that he now bitterly regretted.
During Dhaliwal’s trial, the court heard that John and Clare’s parents, 70-year-old Clifford Bartlett and his 63-year-old wife Elaine, were the victims of two conmen who were operating a million pound photocopier scam.
The Bartletts ran a small business from their home publishing ancient music and needed photocopiers.
But crooked salesmen Gary Carr, 49, and Mark Carmichael, 48, had secretly taken out over 40 fraudulent lease hire agreements in the names of the parents which was raking them in a fortune in interest payments.
The Bartletts, who it was said in court, were not “worldly” and who were ill equipped to see what was happening, couldn’t understand the huge amounts of money flooding out of their bank account each month
Keen to keep their scam going, the court heard Carr and Carmichael persuaded the children’s unsuspecting parents to take out a quarter of a million pound loan.
A finance company was found who were prepared to make the loan to the Bartletts, but wanted their home put up as security.
But, said Michael Speak prosecuting, when the finance company discovered the two grown up children of the couple lived with them, it was decided they should be asked to sign over their rights to the property in the event of their parents defaulting on the loan.
Mr Speak prosecuting said the two fraudsters, who were organising things, didn’t tell the company that both the adult children were “massively physically and mentally handicapped and dependant on the care from their parents.”
Unaware of the condition of John, 30, and 33-year-old Clare Bartlett, or the fact that they wouldn’t understand what was being said to them, the company stipulated that before the loan was made, each of the children should be given the benefit of independent legal advice before signing a “deed of postponement.”
As a result, Mark Carmichael, who had “done business deals” with Mr Dhaliwal in the past, brought in the solicitor to speak to the brother and sister.
In January 2008 Dhaliwal visited the Bartletts at their home. Also there were Carr and Carmichael.
Mr Speak said “He gave the explanation about why he was there and said he needed to speak to John and Clare. He spent 20 minutes or so, apparently with the children on his own. Remarkably, when he finished he had obtained not their signatures, because neither can write, but their marks at the bottom of these two important legal documents.”
The jury were told that the solicitor’s fee of £2,350 had been paid by Carmichael.
Following the meeting, Dhaliwal then contacted the finance company to tell them he had explained the legal implications to the children.
Mr Speak told the jury “The result was that the children signed away all rights to stay in the house if their parents forfeited on the loan.”
He went on “What the prosecution say is this; the two of them were completely incapable of understanding what Dhaliwal claims he tried to explain to them. They are incapable of having the slightest idea of what he was talking about. They would not have understood what he was proposing to get them involved in.”
Instead, said Mr Speak, the moment the solicitor saw them he should have arranged for them to be medically assessed by a psychiatrist and a report prepared as to whether they could enter into a “legally binding agreement.”
He told the court “If that had been done they would have been assessed as incompetent to enter into this agreement.”
During the trial the jury heard from a psychiatrist who had seen the children on behalf of the prosecution who said it was “blindingly obvious to anyone who interacts with them” that they are severely mentally handicapped and would not have understood a word Dhaliwal said to them.
As a result the loan went through and, because of it, Carr and Carmichael were able to continue their fraud.
As a result, Judge Plumstead was told, it led to the couple being declared bankrupt for £1.3 million.
Carr, from Stotfold, was eventually jailed for four years and eight months and Carmichael from Waltham Abbey in Essex was locked up for 15 months.
Before Dhaliwal was sentenced, Mr Armstrong defending told the court “I am not going to shrink from the fact, it was a most distasteful, shameful act.”
Judge Plumstead said it was Dhaliwal’s actions that day which had allowed the loan to go through.
But he said if Dhaliwal had acted properly, the loan would not have been made and the fraud on the parents would have “come to light” quicker.
The judge said the loan that went through was solely for the benefit of Carr and Carmichael. “It heaped further financial devastation on the Bartletts, whose lives have been destroyed,” he said.
The judge said that what happened that day amounted to a “betrayal of trust” as far as John and Clare were concerned. “They didn’t have independent advice, they were betrayed and you did it face to face.”
He went on “There’s not a shred of remorse” and he said Dhaliwal by his not guilty pleas had tried to “brazen it out.”
The judge ordered that, in addition to the prison sentence, Dhaliwal pay John and Clare a thousand pounds each in compensation.