THE family of a solicitor jailed for seven years after stealing more than £4 million have spoken of their “devastation” at her crimes.
Linda Box, 67, of Halifax Road, Dewsbury, was a company director of the well-known Dewsbury family firm of funeral directors, Eric F Box, based in Bradford Road, until her crimes were discovered last year.
Box’s massive deceptions over a 12-year period forced the closure of the 200-year-old Dixon, Coles and Gill law firm. The Dewsbury grandmother’s spending included £800-a-night stays at The Ritz in London for her and her family and a collection of vintage wines for her son worth £800,000.
She also stole £63,000 in Church of England funds via her trusted position in the Wakefield diocese.
Other spending included paying off mortgages for relatives, private school fees for her grandchild and landscaping work at her home.
She held a special account at the Harrods store in London and on one occasion spent £11,000 for her family to visit the Edinburgh Festival.
Box also paid £236,554 in marketing and public relations costs for her husband’s firm of undertakers.
Box, of Halifax Road, Dewsbury, pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud, two of forgery and one of theft. She was jailed for seven years.
This week her family, who police cleared of any involvement, spoke of their shock. Following the sentencing, a spokesman said: “The Box family recognises that many people have been affected by the actions of Linda Box, who is now paying for her crimes by losing her liberty.
“Whilst the male members of the family, Edward, Andrew and Richard, were found by police to have had no involvement whatsoever in the criminal activities of Mrs Box – wife of Richard and mother of Andrew and Edward – it does not lessen the devastation felt by the family for all concerned.
“Now is the time for a period of reflection and for everyone to rebuild their lives. Justice has been served and Mrs Box has said she will do everything in her power to put right the dreadful wrongs she accepts that she has committed.”
Leeds Crown Court heard how Linda Gill was a senior partner at the historic Dixon, Coles and Gill firm and abused her position to maintain an opulent lifestyle.
She also took advantage of her position as a “pillar of the church” when she was registrar with the Diocese of Wakefield to steal £63,000 of Church of England money belonging to the Bishop of Wakefield’s fund, as well as diverting other church cash to herself.
The total amount stolen by Box over the 12-year period came to £4,055,329.
Jailing her, Mr Justice Blake said it was a tale of misplaced trust “all because of your unrestrained and out of control greed.”
The judge said that 75 individual client files, many involving estates of deceased people and 10 files relating to the church, showed misappropriation.
Box repeatedly lied to relatives of clients when they made enquiries about funds.
The mother of one deceased client said: “How can there be a more vile crime than pretending to be my friend when I was obviously overwhelmed with grief.”
Joe Hingston, representing Box, said: “Her reputation lies in ruins.
“This was a course of conduct which simply spiralled out of control.”
The firm, which had offices in Horbury and Wakefield, closed in January last year after a fraud investigation was launched by police.
A senior partner in the firm, Julian Gill, initially became suspicious about a £5,000 payment from a client account in December 2015 and undertook a review. It quickly became clear that other payments had been made, some directly to Box’s American Express account – the police were called in when it dawned that at least £1 million had been stolen from a variety of sources.
She was company secretary at Eric F Box Funeral Directors until she resigned the post on January 14, 2016.
Dixon Coles and Gill closed its doors just two weeks later and all of the staff were made redundant.
Box was arrested in February 2016 and then had her practising certificate suspended by standards monitor the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
Simon Higg-inbotham, from the CPS Specialist Fraud Division, said: “Linda Box used her position as a trusted partner in a law firm to steal millions of pounds from the estates of those who had died, depriving their grieving friends and families of their rightful inheritance.
“She also abused her senior position of responsibility within the Church of England by stealing.
“Box used the money she stole on spending sprees and to pay off multiple mortgages.
Through careful analysis of the financial transactions, prosecutors and investigators were able to build a strong case against her.”
Amongst her many criminal activities, Box also forged the signature of a colleague so that she could raid a trust fund.