Man jailed for two years over MSF legacy fraud

23 Nov 2017 News

Edinburgh Sheriff Court exterior

A man has been jailed for two years after pleading guilty to forging the signature of a dying relative removing Medecins Sans Frontieres from receiving the balance of a £7m estate.

The BBC reports that Paul Coppola, 65, has been jailed for two years at Edinburgh Sheriff Court after admitting forging the signature of his second cousin Desiderio Coppola to change his will, removing any mention to international aid charity Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Desiderio Coppola made a will in July 2010 bequeathing much of his £7m estate to “friends and family”, including £100,000 to Paul Coppola. Desiderio Coppola had stated in this will that the “residue of his estate was to go to” MSF. However, days before Desiderio’s death, the court heard that Paul Coppola “presented a new will to the family that made no mention of the charity”.

According to court documents, Paul Coppola held a meeting with “friends and family” of Desidero Coppola in the “days after” his death, and explained “that he had found that the deceased was due to leave the majority of his wealth to charity and that he had persuaded the deceased to change his will”.

Coppola recieved 'more than £270,000' plus two properties

As a result of the fraud, Paul Coppola received “more than £270,000 from the estate into his bank account in October 2013” and received a property which he sold for a further £290,000. He also received a second property in Edinburgh’s Waterloo Place.  

In late 2013, solicitors representing Desiderio Coppola’s estate “went to the Court of Session in Edinburgh and successfully raised an action to have the will set aside”. Paul Coppola “chose not to defend the action” and later admitted to police officers that he had forged the signature of his second cousin.

In sentencing, Sheriff Frank Crowe said: "Your actions caused much grief, inconvenience and disappointment to the other legatees and your friends and uncertainty to the tenants of properties which were rented from the deceased."

Coppola’s guilty plea meant his jail sentence was lowered to two years from a possible three.

A spokeswoman from MSF said the charity does not comment on the detail of individual donations. Adding: "However, we are very grateful to Mr Desiderio Coppola for his generous bequest and indeed all our supporters without whom our work would not be possible."

 

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