A crooked solicitor and her partner have been jailed after being convicted of fraud and perverting the course of justice, thanks to Thurrock Council's national Counter Fraud and Investigation team.
Astrid Halberstadt-Twum – principal solicitor at the law firm Cleveland and Co Solicitors in Whitechapel, east London – and her husband Joseph Twum have been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the Legal Aid Agency and of perverting the course of public justice. The pair were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday 10 July.
Halberstadt-Twum was handed a prison sentence of three years in total and Twum sentenced to two-and-a-half years.
They were prosecuted thanks to a pioneering partnership between Thurrock Council's Counter Fraud and Investigation team – which shares its expertise nationwide as the national Counter Fraud and Investigation Directorate – and the Legal Aid Agency.
Following a judge's ruling that the case should be prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service, Thurrock Council's fraud team investigated the case. The evidence they gathered was vital in securing this prosecution.
Cllr Gary Collins, Portfolio Holder for Central Services, said: "This has been a large and complex case pursued with vigour and professionalism by the pioneering partnership between the Legal Aid Agency and our national service supporting the public sector.
"The detailed analysis of thousands of legal documents and electronic material established a factory of fraud which has resulted in a prosecution.
"This is another great example of Thurrock Council sharing its expertise on the national stage."