Lawyer guilty of $800k fraud did it to keep staff at work

A SOUTH-east Queensland law firm partner has narrowly escaped going to jail after siphoning more than $800,000 from trust funds in a bid to keep his business afloat.

The court heard he did not want to close his business and leave his 80 employees, including Ipswich and Caboolture staff, without work.

Michael Morrison Quinn was sentenced to 18 months jail, wholly suspended, after pleading guilty to fraud.

He was a partner in Quinn and Scattini Lawyers with offices throughout south-east Queensland including Ipswich, Caboolture and the Gold Coast.

The 64-year-old sat in the defendant's dock at Brisbane District Court on Wednesday dressed in a business suit as the court was told about his financial difficulties and how he transferred money from trust accounts to pay company expenses between January and May 2011.

Judge Michael Shanahan said the money should have gone to the State Revenue Office to pay stamp duty, but Quinn's actions delayed these payments.

He said Quinn eventually paid the State Revenue Office with interest.

The court heard Quinn was desperate to keep the firm running and that he also withdrew money from his personal accounts to try to make ends meet.

The court also heard he had been declared bankrupt this week.

Judge Shanahan said Quinn had breached trust.

"That's a breach of trust involved in your profession as a solicitor and the public expectation of the integrity of that role," he said.

Judge Shanahan said the offences had had a "devastating impact" on Quinn and that he cooperated with the Law Society when necessary.

He said there would be no useful purpose in putting Quinn behind bars and sentenced him to a suspended jail sentence.

If Quinn commits another offence within three years, he faces 18 months jail.


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