Will writing conmen who targeted York pensioners told to expect jail

Two men who ran will writing firm Yorkshire Asset Protection have been told by a judge to expect jail time, after being found guilty of defrauding pensioners out of more than £30,000.

Michael John Wild and Robert Henry Holly conned customers out of hundreds of pounds with false claims on their credentials, by not carrying out work they were paid for, and by providing worthless documents to customers.

After local newspaper The York Press, ran an exposé on the firm, local solicitor and MD of Coles Solicitors Peter Gibson obtained the company’s files and worked through the 192 they had access to, confirming anything unproblematic free of charge.

Peter believes the jail time the pair could be facing should send a strong message.

Speaking to Today’s Wills and probate, Peter said: “They were selling policies and protections, trust, preparing wills, lasting powers of attorney and funeral plans. From what they made of it, they seemed to have a good business.

“They had lots of clients, and after seeing some of the documents they had prepared, some were fine and some not quite so, and they didn’t do some of the things they said they were going to do.

“So there were funeral plans sold which didn’t exist, and some work which wasn’t done. If they’d stuck to doing what they were doing initially I think they’d still be in business, although I’m not in favour of unregulated will writers. If they had carried on as they originally started, they’d have been fine.”

Peter Gibson, MD at Coles Solicitors

Peter Gibson, MD at Coles Solicitors

In 2013, The York Press were contacted by a woman who had reportedly paid £6,500 for a funeral plan which was never put into place. When her husband died, she was left having to pay funeral costs a second time.

Peter continued: “They abandoned their premises which triggered alarm bells but the real catalyst for things going wrong was Lynda Madden, who purchased a funeral plan for her husband who passed away, but there was not funeral plan at all.

“I read about it, and got in touch with the guys who had been running firm to see if we could help and try and salvage something, but they went to ground.

“In the end we did get the documents from them for 192 clients, we were then able to provide those clients with some assurance that someone was looking after them. We could then do reviews and advise if they were okay or if they needed some work. But there were some that were simply not recovered. I don’t know how many of those there are, there could be dozens or many more.”

Peter, who qualified in 2001 and has been running Coles for ten years this year, says York has had it’s fair share of conmen like these in the past, but believes this will send a strong message to them.

He continued: “The case has been adjourned for sentencing reports, and he has said that they are facing a possible custodial sentence and hopefully that’ll send a shot across the bows. York is perceived as quite an affluent place for some reason, and this has been quite a frequent occurrence in the area with unscrupulous individuals setting up which is damaging to everybody really.

“Solicitors can struggle to have a positive image, we can be perceived as fat cats and unfriendly, which gives license to these sorts of people who can present themselves as more firendly and fun, but the ironic thing was for the services that had been rendered by them and the bills served, had they been done by regulated firms like us, ours wouldn’t have been anywhere near what theirs was, which flies in the face of this perception that we would be more expensive.

“Proper advice does have a cost but it shouldn’t be disproportionate to the value that’s given. and for the clients of YAP, it really was disproportionate, particularly for those whose work wasn’t done.

“Until it becomes a completely reserved activity, it’s always going to be the case that some people will take advantage, like any aspect of life. There are always people at the edges who think they can do things cheaper and cut corners, but it’s one of those things that I think will eventually require government action.”

Today's Wills and Probate