A West Country financial adviser has been jailed for eight years after swindling £800,000 from the wills of elderly clients.
Richard Nelson, 45, who ran Nelsons of Cheltenham, which included a home wills business, was found guilty of a series of theft charges are Bristol Crown Court. He had denied the charges. He was cleared of a charge of forgery.
The court heard that, beginning in 2005, Nelson inserted discretionary clauses in the wills of three pensioners, allowing him control of where their money went.
The clients had intended their money to go to charities or the local church but Nelson transferred part of the money to his own accounts.
The prosecution said Nelson used the money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his family.
Nelson, who since the police investigation had moved to Carterton in Oxfordshire, said he advised his clients to put the discretionary clause in the will because at the time they had not decided exactly where their money should go.
He admitted he had used the money to save his failing business but said he had always intended to return it to the correct beneficiaries. He added that while what he had done was not best practice he did not think it was illegal.
However ,at the end of the week-long trial, the jury took just one hour to convict him of the theft charges.
Jailing him, judge Martin Picton said: “It is clear that your intention was from the start, by the way the wills were prepared, to steal the money. You were motivated by selfishness and greed. The intention was for the money to go to charities that take care of the sick and needy and to family and friends. It was a wholesale breach of trust.”
After the case, DC Niki White of Avon and Somerset police’s economic crime team said they had been first alerted by the niece of one of the pensioners who suspected something was wrong.