A crooked solicitor who stole almost £500,000 in mortgage fraud and used the money to go on a “hedonistic adventure” has been struck off the solicitors’ list.
Philip Krown, also known as William Philip Crossey, opened a Swiss bank account and then used the money to rent a swish apartment in fashionable Rutland Gate in London, travelled extensively to his wife's home country of Colombia and to Europe, had an expense account at the Ritz Hotel and splashed out on expensive jewellery.
All the money had come from Krown remortgaging his Groomsport Home for £445,000 and taking the cash, rather than using it to pay off the existing loan.
Last November he received a suspended four-year jail sentence for the fraud.
The Independent Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has now ordered that Krown be prevented from practising as a solicitor.
The Law Society of Northern Ireland said the decision to strike Krown off the register reflects the seriousness of his offences.
President of the Law Society Norville Connolly said: “The Law Society of Northern Ireland expects from solicitors the highest standards of probity, integrity and professional conduct. The actions and conduct of Mr Crossey are wholly unacceptable.”
Krown was arrested at Gatwick Airport in March 2008 as he and his wife, Dr Claudia Ortiz, were about to board a flight to Barcelona. Krown later pleaded guilty to one count of theft in that he stole credit in the Philip Crossey Solicitors Clients account in the sum of £445,520, and also to removing £390,498.52 of criminal property from Northern Ireland.
Before he changed his name to Krown he had been known as Crossey, and throughout the 1980s and 1990s had built up a successful firm in east Belfast and had served on the Council of the Law Society of Northern Ireland.
However, his successful legal practice was not enough to sustain his increasingly lavish lifestyle and he turned to fraud, applying for the mortgage in July 2005. When a fraud investigation was launched into Krown’s dealings in March 2006 he and his wife had disappeared, not to be seen again for two years.
Sentencing Krown last year Judge Geoffrey Miller QC said his “descent into the mire of his present circumstances has something of the Greek Tragedy about it”.
During the fraud investigation it emerged that Krown and his wife had been living in Rutland Gate since October 2006 and had travelled extensively together.
The judge said that, during 18 interviews with the PSNI, Krown “was unable to give a clear account of how precisely the monies were used, but it is quite apparent that he and his second wife lived well in a fashionable part of London and accounts for stays at the Ritz Hotel, together with regular travel to Europe and South America and purchase of expensive jewellery, all point to the dissipation of the monies”.
Since the revelation of the fraud the authorities have only been able to recover £33,200.