Hundreds of disabled people are believed to have fallen victim to a “manipulative” fraudster who posed as a lawyer to steal money they were owed from discrimination cases, and then launched legal actions against them if they complained.
Karl Lindon was jailed for three years after being found guilty by a jury at Guildford Crown Court this week of five counts of theft from disabled people, worth more than £50,000 in total.
Surrey police said Lindon, 35, from Louvaine Road, Wandsworth, south-west London, had scammed “numerous” people out of money.
In each of the five cases, the victims turned to Lindon to help them secure money they had been awarded through the civil courts, even though he had no legal qualifications.
Lindon secured the money in each of the five cases but despite the victims continually confronting him, he denied ever having received the funds.
Detective constable Sheena Service, who led the case against Lindon for Surrey police, said: “This was a terrible crime where the offender took advantage of a number of vulnerable people and manipulated their trust to con them out of huge sums of money – which clearly had a devastating impact on their lives.”
But Disability News Service (DNS) can reveal that campaigners who have fought for seven years to bring Lindon to justice believe he has stolen money from hundreds of disabled people across the country, through his company Disability Claims Management (DCM), and other online organisations he set up.
And they are furious that regulators and other police forces repeatedly failed to act, despite being told that Lindon was a dangerous and manipulative conman.
Lindon, a former Ministry of Defence press officer, was previously jailed for three years in 2007 and placed on the sex offenders register for life, after admitting distributing child pornography to an online network of paedophiles.
But this did not stop him setting up DCM after his release from prison, probably in 2009, and targeting disabled people who had suffered discrimination in provision of services and as employees.
DNS has spoken to two of Lindon’s victims who gave evidence during his lengthy trial, and who have described the devastating impact of his crimes.
One of them was disabled activist Adam Lotun, who originally instructed Lindon to take on a case relating to disability discrimination by British Gas in 2009.
Lindon’s incompetence led to the case being struck out. But when Lotun complained, Lindon threatened him with defamation – a pattern repeated with many of his victims – and then sued him in the county court in 2011 for thousands of pounds of fees he claimed he was owed.
The courts eventually threw out Lindon’s claims – after he repeatedly lodged appeals against court orders and failed to turn up for hearings – because he was not a qualified lawyer, and he agreed to pay Lotun’s costs in February 2012.
Lotun has been warning other disabled people about Lindon, offering them support, and trying to persuade the police to take action, since 2010.
He believes that hundreds of people were defrauded by Lindon, and he himself has been in contact with about 100 of them, while new victims are still coming forward.
He believes that cuts to legal aid force disabled people and others into the hands of fraudsters like Lindon “because they have nowhere else to turn”.
Lotun said in a Facebook post that Lindon often manipulated police officers to stop investigating his own actions and “turned them against the people who called them for help”.
And he described how Lindon would “use the legal system to take out false actions against DCM clients and then use bailiffs to remove goods to the value of thousands of pounds, leaving old aged pensioners and disabled people fighting ever more costly battles to try and get justice”.
Lotun said he believed that the five charges heard at Guildford Crown Court were only “the tip of a very large iceberg of victims”.
On one of his websites, Lindon claimed his company had processed more than £2.6 million in claims.
Lotun told DNS: “He’s a narcissist, he preyed on people’s vulnerability, on the fact that they were desperate and were seeking guidance and help from someone who would believe them.
“This was the only way they could get any form of justice. But Lindon just didn’t care.”
He said police were told about Lindon many times but failed to act, until Surrey police took on the case.
Chris Fry, from equality law experts Unity Law, who has been acting for Lotun in an effort to retrieve the money he is owed, said Lindon now owes Lotun and Unity Law nearly £40,000.
He said a whole string of public bodies, including police forces, failed to act to stop Lindon.
He said: “It has been a mystery to me why nobody has done anything about it.
“What I was struck with was the number of people who said they had spoken to the police and they had refused to do anything.
“The excuse given to people was that it was a civil matter when it was really theft and fraud.”
The concerns were first exposed in the media four years ago by disabled journalist Sunil Peck, who at the time was writing for the online publication Disability Now.
His article helped alert other victims to the campaigning efforts of Lotun and Fry.
Angela*, another of Lindon’s victims who gave evidence in the trial, contacted Lindon in the spring of 2010 because she was trying to take a case of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination against her former employer.
Lindon told her he had a 99 per cent success rate with such cases, but she now realises that he lied to her repeatedly.
He persuaded her to lower the amount of compensation she was seeking by more than £100,000 and then lied about the settlement he secured from her former employer.
It took her months to find out the truth – that she had been awarded £12,000 rather than the £27,500 Lindon had claimed, and that he had spent most of her settlement on his own business.
He also claimed Angela owed him £8,000 to pay for a barrister who had acted for her in the case, but she says this barrister never existed, and the jury believed her.
She said she had tried reporting Lindon’s crimes to another police force, but that they “just shoved it aside and said it was a civil matter”, before she eventually contacted Surrey police when she heard they had arrested him over another offence.
After she contacted the police, Lindon sent her a letter threatening her with defamation and slander.
She told DNS: “He was just constantly lying. The man is such a fraudster.”
Angela said there were many other victims who had not yet been heard.
She has also been told that some of his victims have taken their own lives as a result of the damage Lindon has caused, because of his bullying.
She said: “A lot of [his victims] are intimidated but morally something had to be done, the way he has destroyed a lot of people.
“He is targeting the most vulnerable. Even during his evidence he said he was going to sue us and take us to court.”
She said Lindon had dominated her life for the last six years and had ruined her career.
Previously comfortably off, she has now been left tens of thousands of pounds in debt.
Disabled activist Mark White has been supporting disabled people who have been ripped off by Lindon for the last seven years.
He said the fraudster would take on discrimination cases, hoping the other side – often a former employer – would settle the claim.
If they failed to settle, Lindon would wait until the evening before the court hearing and then claim that his own client had breached their contract with him and that he could no longer represent them and was going to sue them for his own costs.
Clients from across the country were told that they would have to get to a county court in London – where Lindon appears to have filed all of his cases – by 9am the next morning.
White said the defendants would often file an immediate application for the case to be thrown out, and another for Lindon’s disabled client to pay their costs, which the court would usually agree because there was no-one in court to oppose the applications.
White said: “I have seen people suicidal as a result of his actions. I have had to call ambulances for people as a result of what he has done.”
He has personally supported more than 20 people who have had problems with DCM, and another 30 or so people harmed by Lindon’s other companies, and many of them suffered serious financial damage.
He said a whole string of regulatory bodies had been negligent by failing to act, despite repeated complaints being made about Lindon’s actions.
White said: “Lindon created scheme after scheme after scheme after scheme. Every watchdog who should have sniffed out what was going on, they all turned away.”
He said he believed the Lindon case demonstrated the “contempt and institutional attitudes around disability. They believed it was just a bunch of uppity crips squabbling.”
White said he could only feel a slight sense of satisfaction that Lindon had now been jailed because of the “level of discrimination, institutional abuse, negligence and the level of indifference that so many professionals have shown” over the last seven years.
*Not her real name
12 May 2016