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Sole practitioner convicted of aggravated fraud struck off roll

Sole practitioner convicted of aggravated fraud struck off roll

A Queensland solicitor has been removed from the roll of practitioners for disbursing trust monies without authority and for being convicted for a serious offence.

The Queensland Legal Services Commissioner applied, in the state’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal, for the removal of Melvin Poh Onn Tay from the roll, particularising seven occasions of misuse of trust monies by Mr Tay and pointing to his plea of guilty before the District Court of one count of aggravated fraud in March 2018.

Through counsel, Mr Tay expressly admitted the two charges, and provided written consent to the Tribunal for the making of the orders sought by the LSC, being the removal of his name from the roll of practitioners.

The tribunal noted that Mr Tay had “dishonestly applied monies which had been deposited into his trust account on seven different occasions”, with the total amount of money misapplied adding to $93,000.

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This money was paid back prior to the conduct being detected, however there was “no doubt that he dishonestly availed himself” of client money, the tribunal mused.

When Mr Tay’s conduct was discovered, following a trust account investigation, his practising certificate was cancelled in January 2014, and he had not held such a certificate since.

The tribunal said that his “financial distress arose, in no small part, from his gambling habits. At least some of the instances of trust account defalcation arose as a consequence of the respondent having recourse to trust moneys for the purposes of funding his gambling habit”.

“In any event, [he] has accepted all of the facts underlying the charges and has accepted the inevitable outcome of his having committed these grave breaches of trust.”

It was clear “beyond doubt” that he had engaged in professional misconduct, the tribunal determined.

“Nothing has been put before the tribunal to persuade the tribunal in any way that the respondent is now, or at any time in the future, will be a person who will be fit to practice law as a member of the profession.”

As such, it was ordered that Mr Tay’s name be removed from the roll of practitioners in Queensland, and that he pay the LSC’s costs.

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