Lawyer missing along with $3.5 million in clients’ money
A Mississauga lawyer has disappeared after allegedly swindling millions of dollars from her clients and fleeing to India, according to the Law Society.
Toronto Star, 2014/11/04
One day she was working as a lawyer in an office plaza in Mississauga, handling millions of dollars of her clients’ mortgage funds in a trust account.
The next day she was gone — and so was $3.5 million.
Real estate lawyer Rita Grewal abandoned her office, her home and her clients in July, allegedly fleeing to India as a millionaire, according to the Law Society of Upper Canada.
She has not been heard from since. In a Law Society Tribunal Hearing last month her licence was urgently suspended to “protect the public.”
The law society filed a motion to the tribunal for Grewal’s licence to be suspended on Oct. 3, claiming it had reasonable grounds to believe she was involved in a “dishonest and fraudulent scheme” to swindle mortgage funds from her clients.
Grewal “mishandled, misapplied or misappropriated millions of dollars,” abandoned her law practice, failed to serve clients to the standard of a competent lawyer and was not cooperating with the law society’s investigation, according to the motion.
In the tribunal’s ruling, chairman David Wright wrote that the evidence showed Grewal “may well have had a plan to steal clients’ money and then leave the country.”
Since her disappearance, the law society has received 11 complaints from clients who claim they gave Grewal money to pay out existing mortgages, but she never did.
“Despite the fact that over $3.5 million of clients’ money is missing, the bank froze the lawyer’s trust account with less than $100,000 remaining in it,” Wright’s ruling said.
Activity on Grewal’s credit card suggests she is now in India, the ruling said.
In addition to suspending Grewal’s licence, the tribunal ordered her to pay $10,000 to the law society to cover its legal costs.
Emails, letters, fax messages and phone calls from the law society to Grewal’s last known contact addresses have not been returned.
The law society has no power to extradite Grewal, but it has referred the case to police, society spokesman Roy Thomas said.
The RCMP and Peel Regional Police both said they could not confirm or deny if Grewal was the subject of an investigation.
The complaints against Grewal relate to her work as sole practitioner for RG Barrister & Solicitor Professional Corporation.
She ran the business from a plaza near Pearson International Airport between February and July this year.
Jagmohan Nanda, of Nanda & Associate Lawyers, worked in the same plaza. He said she had one room in a shared office unit with no sign in the hallway.
Calls to Grewal’s office on Monday and Tuesday produced only a busy signal and she did not reply to emails from the Star.
Grewal, who had previously worked as a lawyer in India, moved to Canada in 2005. Three years later, she took up a job as a legal assistant at Carranza LLP, Toronto’s largest ethnic personal injury law firm.
She was called to the bar in Ontario in 2011 and then became a full-time lawyer at Carranza, former colleague and fellow lawyer Moira Gracey told the Star.
“She was very normal and a pretty dogged lawyer,” Gracey said.
While Grewal was employed at Carranza, her husband also worked for the firm as a file clerk, but he moved back to India after the couple separated last year, Gracey said.
The break-up had been tough on Grewal and in February she said she was leaving Carranza for personal reasons, Gracey said.
The firm never received any complaints about Grewal and the allegations against her came as a “complete shock” to Gracey.
“It’s unbelievable. I was just speechless and I still can’t get over it,” she said.
Grewal had also served as a board member for Toronto’s South Asian Women’s Centre before suddenly resigning near the end of last year, the centre’s executive director Kripa Sekhar said.
The lawyer had contacted the centre saying her apartment had been robbed and she was going through a rough patch, Sekhar said. After that, Grewal did not return phone calls from staff.
One day late last year, she emailed the centre saying she was resigning for “health and personal reasons,” Sekhar said.
In an online board member profile for the centre, Grewal described herself as an experienced lawyer who “strongly advocated fundamental human rights.”