Greek-Australian lawyer sentenced to 6 years for stealing $1.7m from clients

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The solicitor in this story, John James Kotsifas of Northcote law firm J Kotsifas & Associates, is in no way professionally related to Melbourne solicitor John Andrew Kotsifas of JK Legal Barristers and Solicitors.

Greek Australian lawyer John Kotsifas has been dealt a large punishment after he was caught stealing $1.7 million worth of clients’ cash for personal use.

The owner of the Northcote firm J Kotsifas & Associate Lawyers was last week sentenced by the Supreme Court to six years’ imprisonment after earlier pleading guilty to theft and causing deficiencies in clients’ trust accounts. 

The offences related to transactions ranging from thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars each between January 2013 and October 2015.

Justice John Champion told the court one client was left “on the brink of homelessness” as a result of Mr Kotsifas’ deceit, according to her victim impact statement tendered to the court.

Another told the court her late husband, Mr Kotsifas’ long-term client of 20 years, felt “gutted” by his actions, which he discovered while he was gravely ill and shortly before his death.

“She describes how sometimes you would visit their home with your children and that you invited them to your birthday party,” Justice Champion said. 

“Some of your clients regarded you as a friend… these actions result in your conduct being all the more reprehensible.”

Claiming Mr Kostifas had brought the legal profession into disrepute, Justice Champion said he had caused nothing but pain and loss to his victims.

“Your actions have caused pain and misery to your clients, the people who trusted you. As a result of your offending, your career as a practising lawyer is finished and you are in disgrace,” Justice Champion said.

According to court documents, the money stolen was used to purchase multimillion-dollar homes in Balwyn, pricey renovations and a golf club membership.

He also used the money to service ballooning credit card debts and out-of-control loan repayments for his luxury Porsche, the court heard.

Kotsifas said he was under financial pressure when he committed his crimes, blaming pressure from his second wife to sustain a certain lifestyle.

Mr Kotsifas was convicted of 23 charges, including the theft of $267,000 from clients and another $1.49 million he was supposed to have held on trust for them. Furthermore, helped himself to more than $400,000 he held on trust for one client.

Kotsifas must serve four years’ jail before becoming eligible for parole.

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