Two years for the bogus brief

Abbey Wood

A bogus barrister who swindled trusting clients out of thousands of pounds after he was unmasked as a charlatan was jailed for two years today.

Leonard Ogilvy, 48, lived in a fantasy world, leaving his home ‘suited and booted’ every morning when he did not have a job to go to.

Ogilvy graduated from university in 1998 with a law degree, but his previous convictions for dishonesty meant he could never pursue a career at the bar.

Southwark Crown Court heard he fleeced divorcee James Ayanda out of £19,000 after meeting him at church in 2010.

Ogilvy defrauded two other clients after pocketing more than £1,000 in fees after offering to represent them at employment tribunals between 2010 and 2014.

One of the victims became suspicious of Ogilvy and contacted the Bar Council and the Law Society and was advised that Ogilvy was not registered.

When she raised the matter with Ogilvy, he tried to persuade her he was registered but ‘not practicing’.

Ogilvy was convicted of three counts of wilfully pretending to be a barrister and three of fraud after a trial earler this year.

He insisted he held himself out as a ‘legal representative’ at tribunals, a role in which one does not have to be legally trained.

He said he acted on behalf of five to 10 clients per year on a word-of-mouth basis and never advertised his work.

Ogilvy had offered his services to Mr Ayanda under these circumstances and a ’50-50 split on whatever I recovered as my fee’.

Two other victims, Bisola Okusanya and Jada Samuel also hired the fake lawyer, said Mark Gadsden, prosecuting.

‘He is saying to [the victims] ‘I am a barrister and I can represent you at the employment tribunal.

‘They then give him money for doing so and end up with no representation.’

Ms Okusanya forked out for an initial consultation with Ogilvy but was left unimpressed while Ms Samuel was stung for £1,400 after engaging him following a consultation.

Ogilvy has a string of previous convictions dating back to an offence of theft by employee dating back to 1990.

‘That should have been a lesson well-learned,’ said Judge Michael Gledhill, QC.

‘You were not a youngster at the time.

‘You were 21 or 22 when you committed these offences – old enough to know that you were doing wrong and that your behaviour was dishonest.

‘And it was the start of a string of dishonest offences which have culminated in you appearing before the court today.’

A second conviction followed in 1992, again for dishonesty, for offences of theft and using false instruments leading to a two-year prison term.

‘If you hadn’t learned your lesson of not committing criminal offences and leading your life honestly, you should have learned it when you served that sentence,’ continued the judge.

He said Ogilvy was ‘an intelligent man capable of working hard’ who put himself through university in 1998 and graduated with a law degree.

But his convictions meant he would never be admitted to the bar and so he instead focussed on representing clients at the employment tribunal.

Ogilvy ‘sailed very close to the wind and on occasions you went over the line’ by providing immigration advice when prohibited from doing so resulting in another conviction in 2003.

‘So you were warned by the employment tribunal that although you were entitled to provide legal assistance and help, there were limits to what you could do,’ said the judge.

‘But you didn’t pay heed to that and I ask myself why you didn’t pay heed to that and I have come to the conclusion there were two major reasons.

‘Firstly, that you needed to earn a living and secondly this was a matter of status.

‘That was suggested by your barrister when he just told me that you would leave your home suited and booted giving the impression you were going to work when there was no work to do.

‘So you earned what money you could by pretending to be a barrister.’

He conned a ‘vulnerable’ psychiatric nurse out of £2,000 in 2015 after offering to win her £30,000 in a dispute with her employer.

Ogilvy asked the woman for cash to send his frail mother in Nigeria, as well as £1,200 to lodge a non-existent claim and £800 in ‘running fees’.

He was let off with a suspended sentence for fleecing the nurse in April 2015.

Judge Gledhill added: ‘It undermines the justice system in this country and people are at huge risk by somebody such as yourself – not a qualified barrister or solicitor – with a modest understanding of the law, ungoverned by the regulations of the Law Society or the Bar Council [representing them].

‘And the ignorance stands out in this case because in the course of your interview and indeed in your evidence you told the officers interrogating you and the jury that you believed because you were not earning £30,000 you were not eligible to pay income tax or submit a tax return.

‘That is totally false.

‘That demonstrates the lack of knowledge of the law of this country and demonstrates the risk that people that choose to be represented by you face when they instruct you.’

Ogilvy, of McLeod Road, Abbey Wood, southeast London, was jailed for two years.

Detective Constable Gavin Popplewell, of the Met’s Complex Fraud Team, said: ‘Ogilvy is a serial conman who posed convincingly as a barrister, persuading vulnerable individuals in their hour of need to part with often large sums of cash for legal advice he did not, nor was qualified to provide.

‘If other people believe they have also fallen victim to him, I would urge them to contact police via Action Fraud.’

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