For more than three years, a Sydney lawyer convinced his Greek clients that their money was safe in his practice's trust account. It wasn't.
When they transferred money for property deposits, settlements and stamp duty into the account, James Dimitrious would then move the money to his personal bank accounts to pay off a vast array of his debts and loans.
If a client demanded to know where their money had gone, he would use funds from another client to repay them. Eventually the money ran out.
Dimitrious slowly defrauded $1.9 million from his clients, many of whom spoke little English.
The Earlwood solicitor will spend time behind bars after he pleaded guilty to 16 fraud related charges involving eight clients between March 2008 and February 2011.
Last February, the 50-year-old was sentenced to two years' imprisonment without parole but was granted bail after he lodged an appeal against the severity of his sentence.
Dimitrious will remain on bail until the appeal against his sentence is heard in March.
Police allege Dimitrious fraudulently moved $1.9 million of his clients' money, of which about half was never refunded, to the trust account of his practice, James Dimitrious Solicitor & Attorneys.
Burwood Local Court heard the Law Society's fidelity fund – which compensates people who suffer losses arising from dishonest acts of associates of law practices relating to trust money or property – paid $1.136 million to clients who were duped during their dealings with the now-suspended lawyer.
One charge of obtaining financial advantage by deception related to Dimitrious' client Angela Tsoutsoras.
The amount of $82,1747.63 from her property settlement was deposited into the "James Lawyers" practice trust account in January 2011.
Two weeks later, Dimitrious drew a cheque from the trust account for exactly the same amount and deposited it into his personal account.
He misappropriated the entire amount as a trustee, and $183,120 was never returned.
Following this, Dimitrious also falsified a document in the name of Ms Tsoutsoras purporting to give instructions to another lawyer about the payment of money. He listed his address instead of hers. The court heard this was done to limit the appearance of criminality after his practising certificate was suspended.
Magistrate Beverley Schurr gave Dimitrious a six-month jail sentence without parole for this offence.
"Only a full-time custodial sentence is appropriate in a case where a professional entrusted with clients' money has defrauded them of that money in a manner designed to hide the misappropriation from them and where the fraud is later discovered by an outside agency," the magistrate said during the sentencing hearing.
The accused also acted on behalf of Londos and Tasia Fokas when they bought an Abbotsford property in March 2008.
When the time came to pay stamp duty he told the couple to give him their cheque book. He then wrote a $43,244 cheque payable to "James Dimitrious" instead of the firm's trust account.
One year after the property had been purchased the couple were told the property was still in the name of the previous owner because the stamp duty had not been paid.
After the daughter of the Fokas family approached the accused, he paid the stamp duty to the Office of State Revenue from his personal ANZ account.
One of Dimitrious' clients, former friend Christopher Gates said he felt for the solicitor who had "gone too deep".
"I don't think he deserves jail time. He has had enough done to his career and his personal life and I don't think jail is where he'll learn how to move on," Mr Gates said.