Fri | Oct 7, 2022

Attorney ordered to pay back client $9.3 million lost in cyber attack

Published:Tuesday | March 22, 2022 | 1:51 PM
“Though this is not a case involving any dishonesty on the part of the respondent, the evidence is equally clear that the respondent was not as diligent as she ought to have been in protecting herself and her clients against potential cybercrime," the disciplinary committee of the GLC found.

The General Legal Council (GLC) has ordered attorney-at-law Tanya Walters Powell to pay $9.3 million with interest in restitution to a construction worker following an incident of cybercrime.

On December 3, last year, the disciplinary committee of the GLC, found Walters Powell guilty of professional misconduct.

She had collected the money on behalf of Michael Kelly arising from the sale of a property in 2018.

Walters Powell said the money was paid into an overseas account based on instructions she received in an email.

She subsequently discovered that the email was hacked and brought expert evidence to substantiate her claim.

Sanctions were imposed last month and she was also ordered to pay $250,000 in costs of which $150,000 will be paid to Kelly and $100,000 to the GLC.

The sums are to be paid within the next six months.

The problem stemmed from the sale of Kelly's house in High Mountain, Bog Walk, St Catherine in 2018.

Kelly complained that he hired Walters Powell to conduct the transaction.

The house was sold for $10.5 million but he received no payment.

The committee found that both parties were victims of cybercrime.

“Though this is not a case involving any dishonesty on the part of the respondent, the evidence is equally clear that the respondent was not as diligent as she ought to have been in protecting herself and her clients against potential cybercrime," the disciplinary committee of the GLC found.

Neither was she as proactive or prompt as the circumstances required her to be to retrieve the funds or to have the scam properly investigated. 

Despite her expression of remorse for the complainant's loss, and her efforts to settle with him, she has responsibility for the complainant's total loss, the committee held.

Kelly said he is disappointed with the outcome of the case and in particular the amount of money he must be paid for restitution.

He claims that the amount should be much more because the house sale took place in 2018.

- Barbara Gayle

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