A former Worthing borough councillor is facing a potential jail sentence after pleading guilty in a major financial fraud case.
Mark O’Keeffe, 41, of Trent Road, Goring-by-Sea, who runs a legal consultancy firm, admitted stealing and spending a total of £70,000 from a client who had made an investment intended to be put into a property portfolio.
Speaking at the hearing at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on Friday, prosecutor Mandy Allemand said: “The male customer transferred the money (£70,000) to Mr O’Keefe in May, 2012, which was to be used for property investment. But shortly afterwards, the man changed his mind and asked for his money back, but it was not returned.Mr O’Keeffe had been spending the money while hoping that another investment would come along, which it did not.”
Given the severity of the fraud, Miss Allemand requested the case be sent to crown court for sentencing. O’Keeffe’s defence did not offer any evidence of mitigating circumstances surrounding the case, except that he wished to make use of fast-track sentencing under the early guilty plea scheme.
The case comes just months after the ex-Castle ward Conservative councillor, who had also previously stood as a Liberal Democrat, was barred from practicising as a solicitor in a separate incident.
This involved a Solicitors Regulation Authority report, which banned him from all legal work after finding that while working as a process server for several firms, he abandoned sensitive documents at his former residence.
He left confidential personal court and client documents at the address – one of these revealing that he had claimed to be a solicitor from a company named Baker and Co, even though he was not qualified. He faces up to six months in jail and will be sentenced at Lewes Crown Court in February.