Ex-paralegal admits $1.5 million deception

A paralegal banned from working in the legal industry over a string of criminal convictions has admitted dishonestly taking $1.5 million from a law firm she worked for.

For nearly two decades Athena Razos, who has used more than a dozen aliases, worked as a secretary, conveyancer and paralegal in some of Melbourne's biggest law firms.

Razos pleaded guilty on Tuesday to 15 dishonestly charges, representing her biggest financial deception to date - $1,569,227.

Between April 2013 and July 2017, she dishonestly obtained sums ranging between a few thousand dollars to $257,000 while working for Moray & Agnew, where she had been employed since 2008.

Among them was a $205,000 payment to a Westpac account which was marked as funds payable to a vendor after the settlement of their property sale.

Another $55,000 intended for the State Revenue Office, for payment of stamp duty, was also dishonestly obtained by Razos.

All up she admitted 11 charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception and five of obtaining property by deception, having falsely claimed payments from Moray & Agnew were legitimate business expenditure.

The guilty plea comes two years after Razos was found by the Victorian Legal Services Board not to be a fit and proper person to work in the profession.

"(Her conduct) underlies what I consider to be a continuing risk posed by Ms Razos if she were ever to be employed in a law practice again," the VLSB senior member found.

Razos consented to that order being made.

As well as the charges Razos has now admitted, the board took into account three lots of prior convictions, under aliases.

In 2000, she was convicted as Tina Zissiadis-Ligris of theft, obtaining property by deception, making and using false documents.

A three-month prison sentence was suspended and she was ordered to pay more than $80,000 compensation.

Seven years later, as Athina Zissi, she was convicted of 61 charges of obtaining property by deception and 141 of theft for taking petty cash totalling more than $16,000.

She was jailed for 16 months as Athina Ligris in 2009 for making false documents, obtaining property and financial advantage by deception.

Razos was ordered to pay $5000 in compensation for the offending, which included forging her husband's signature and applying for a credit card in his name. The bank wrote off nearly $40,000 of credit card debt.

Razos was employed in various secretarial roles from 1988 at Mallesons Stephen Jacques, Minter Ellison, Freehills and Professional Legal Group before joining Moray & Agnew in 2008 as a paralegal.

Her barrister Jonathan Rattray told the County Court on Tuesday that a compensation case running alongside the criminal case had also resolved.

It's hoped they can now seek independent medical reports for a pre-sentence hearing in early 2023.