Brisbane lawyer Russell Biddle has been jailed after he stole $1.8 million from clients to help pay off his firm’s $1.2 million tax debt, as well as some personal expenses.
According to a report by the Brisbane Times, Mr Biddle was extradited from NSW in May of 2015 after it was found he had taken money from two of his clients’ estates. One was the deceased estate of John and Carol Dawson, who were among the six people killed in a vintage plane crash on the Sunshine Coast in 2012.
Crown prosecutor Sarah Klemm said Mr Biddle “grossly abused the trust placed in him” as power of attorney and executor.
The Brisbane District Court heard that Mr Biddle stole more than $1.1 million from the Dawson estate and over $500,000 from a second estate.
“These are very significant crimes by a person with a significant position of trust and responsibility,” Judge David Reid said in his sentencing.
“It’s contrary to all of the professional practices of a solicitor.”
Mr Biddle was sentenced to seven and a half years' jail after pleading guilty to multiple counts of fraud. He will be eligible for parole in November of next year.
“This is a major fall from grace,” Judge Reid said, saying Mr Biddle must have known the scheme would inevitably come unstuck.
“He’s probably king of sticking his head in the sand.”
The Queensland Law Society’s fidelity fund paid around $950,000 in compensation to the estates and Mr Biddle has repaid around $172,000, The Daily Telegraph reported.