We consider the “moral code” of the solicitor–class in Ireland to be evident by the fake and falsified documents provided to the Law Society and the residuary beneficiaries of Dolores' estate. Managing partner John White and solicitor/executor Joe Bowe of Beauchamps Solicitors successfully provided these to to the Law Society in answer to the complaint from one of Dolores' beneficiaries.
When informed of this fraud, Complaints Executive Martin Clohessy of the Law Society responded, “…if there is a prosecution, please inform me at that time.” Complaint rebuffed, file closed, no further action to be taken, all is well in the solicitors' alternate reality in Ireland.
We think those documents deserve a closer look, lest anyone harbour vague doubts about their fradulent nature. We are also mindful that we are openly stating that one of the “top” law firms in Ireland, Beauchamps Solicitors, has forged and falsified documents. We stand by that statement, and we think it prudent to support it.
We will focus on some documents at a level that is a bit technical. We publish this without an expectation that many of our readers will find it interesting enough to plod through. We consider it important enough to have in the public record, however. A brief overview of the process follows.
All of the Microsoft Word documents we are digging into are in the .doc format. This format first appeared in Word 97, and was the default file format for Word until Word 2007, when Microsoft introduced the .docx default file format. The .doc format is still widely used as a default format because of its backward compatibility. A person who has the 17 year old Word 97 can read a document produced by a modern version of Word saved as a .doc. Beauchamps Solicitors use the .doc format as their standard default for Word documents.
That's helpful for our investigation. Word .doc files are produced as a binary stream of ones and zeros. Those are hard for humans to deal with, so we'll convert them to hex, a 16 digit numbering system a bit more human–friendly. This stream of information not only contains the text of the documents, but also the information needed to format the document. If italics or bolded words are used, that info is stored in the stream. The font styles, sizes, and colors, the margins, spacing, hyperlinks, etc. are all there in the .doc file so that the computer knows how to render it the way the author intended. All this information is part of the document itself.
More than that, the stream contains other information that is useful for our little look–see.
The first document we'll look at as an example is from 2006, from solicitor Joe Bowe to his client Onan Maxwell. This document concerns Onan Maxwell's attempt to have Bowe's elderly and wealthy client Patrick Maxwell declared a Ward of Court–which Bowe mystifyingly facilitated. (Unfortunately for Bowe and his client Onan Maxwell, Bowe's client Patrick Maxwell died before the Ward of Court could be completed.)
We don't even need to open the .doc file to read the stream. We just tell the computer to read the ones and zeros, convert them to hex and spit out the result.
This document has 1568 of lines of numbers like those above. This snippet is from the part of the stream holding the text of the letter. We're more interested in other areas of the stream. Let's look at the very start of the stream:
The first eight bytes— d0 cf 11 e0 a1 b1 1a e1 —identify the file as a Word .doc. Every Word document in the world created since the advent of Word 97 saved as a .doc file has that same sequence of bytes starting at the zero position in the data stream. (Computers always count from zero, not from one.)
Certain bytes in the stream point to locations in the stream where different types of information are stored. For instance, if we know where to look, we can find which byte tells us precisely where the text of the document starts. And, as luck would have it, we do; Microsoft has made the .doc file format an open format and has published the underlying structure.
For one more example, let's look at the info starting at byte 512 (which is written as 200 in hex). We see this:
Bytes number 516 and 517 (37 20) tell us the version number of Word that produced this document. In this case it is Microsoft Word 9.3821, known as Word 2000, which was first released in 1999. If we wanted to, we could figure out what updates and Service Packs had been applied to Word through this version number.
Here is some of what we learned about this document through appying this basic process:
- It was created on 21 February 2006.
- The standard Normal.dot Word template was used when the file was created.
- The file “STANDARD BLANK LETTER TO CONTACTS.doc” was opened and used to create this letter. The file path is shown.
- The letter was created by m.secretary
- The letter was autosaved at Beauchamps just once, indicating an editing time of just over ten minutes. The file path is shown.
- The language was set to U.S. English (why not UK English or Ireland English? It would help with spell–check, etc.)
- It was last printed out 21 February 2006 at 4:17pm. (The time stamp reports the system time; if the system time is off, the timestamps of the .doc are likewise off.)
- This letter was further modified by Onan Maxwell on 03 June 2006 at 6:40pm.
- It was saved to a folder named “Uncle Paddy”.
We will be looking at a number of documents, many of which were created by secretaries at Beauchamps. We will use psedonyms for their names: e.secretary, m.secretary, n.secretary, and o.secretary. We will retain the naming conventions used by Beauchamps for these documents (as that has a bearing in our investigation), and replicate the exact structure of the names of the documents, using the same punctuation, capitals, spacing, etc., but will once again use pseudonyms where appropriate.
In our example letter from 2006, we saw that Beauchamps at the time was using Word 2000, which was released in 1999.
By 2010, Beauchamps was using Word 2003. Word 2003 was the last version of Word that generated documents in the .doc binary format by default. More on this later…
The first two documents in the box below are from a couple of months before the 22 December 2010 date. The first document was created in Word 2003. It was then printed out, scanned and sent as a .pdf file. That seems to be a standard procedure at Beauchamps, which is surprising given that a couple of clicks could have saved the .doc as a .pdf, without going through the printing out the hard copy/scanning routine.
PDF's give up less data than a .doc file, but we can still tell a few things about it. The second document used the first one as a pattern. (These documents were written during the time Dolores was in Wexford General Hospital.)
The first document was saved on 20 October, and was opened again on 28 October. to be used as a pattern for a new letter. The surprising thing is that after it was opened and modified, it was saved with the exact same file name and in the exact same location on the server. The first letter effectively no longer existed in electronic form.
There are a lot of, um, surprising things we have discovered about the way Beauchamps handles documents. We think it safe to say that they are a long way from ISO 9001 standards.
The attempt to fool the Law Society of Ireland and Dolores' beneficiaries with fake, falsified, backdated documents was partially successful. Beauchamps did indeed fool the Law Society, but Dolores' beneficiaries had a bit more cop–on than the venerable Law Society, it appears.
Beauchamps would like us to believe that this letter was written by Joe Bowe and sent to his client and co-executor Onan Maxwell on 22 December 2010. Which would be a bit troubling, if it were true. Bowe has admitted that his client Onan Maxwell has no interest in minimising the costs of administering Dolores' estate. Bowe has stated that if it costs €30,000, his client Onan Maxwell would be “happy”. Perhaps Bowe expected Onan Maxwell to object to his fee, demanding that the estate be charged more. Oh wait…we forgot for a moment the letter never existed back in 2010. Apologies.
So now we'll squeeze that fake backdated Section 6 letter into sequence with other documents produced by Beauchamps in late 2010 and early 2011. We'll call the fake one Document X. It's highlighted in red.
Update added 18 August, 2014:
In 2006, Beauchamps was using the seven–year old Word 2000 version. By October, 2010 Beauchamps had upgraded to Word 2003, which at that time had itself been released for almost exactly seven years. (We note that Beauchamps was using both these versions well after Microsoft's support for them had ended—that is, unless they were willing to pony up some extra money to Microsoft; we are unaware if they did.)
If Beauchamps narrative concerning the fake, backdated letter to the beneficiaries is to be believed, we also have to believe this:
- Beauchamps upgraded to Word 2010 between 01 December and 22 December 2010 (a mere six months after it became available)
- Beauchamps wrote to Onan Maxwell with this upgraded version—
- and then immediately went back to using the outdated Word 2003
- all the while leaving Word 2010 unused until August 2013
We find this hard to swallow. No, rather our conclusion and recommendation is that anyone looking to have a solicitor generate dodgy documents should avoid Beauchamps Solicitors altogether; although Beauchamps have obviously shown no hesitation in their willingness to produce forged, falsified, and backdated documents, the execution of such shows a certain lack of adroitness in that area of their expertise.
Yep, there certainly appear to be some serious anomalies in that letter supposedly written and sent on 22 December 2010. While we are at it let's compare a few metrics from the Beauchamps' Word documents we can access between the dates of 20 October 2010 and 19 July 2013—before Beauchamps upgraded to Word 2010. That's 41 Word documents, not including the fake.
|Metric||41 Word Docs||The Fake|
|Word Version||Word Version 11.5606 96%||Word Version 14|
|Word Version 11.9999 4%|
|Creation Date||20 October 2010—19 July 2013||10 February 2014|
|Last Modified By||o.secretary 70%||Trainer|
|Naming Structure||Starting with yyyy.mm.dd 98%||BLANK LETTER.doc|
|CASH ACCOUNT.doc 2%|
|Object Type||Word Document 100%||Word 97-2003 Document|
- The default template used by Word 97 through Word 2003 is called Normal.dot. Starting with Word 2007, the default template is called Normal.dotm.
- The Object Type for Word 2003 .doc files is “Word Document”. After 2003, when a Word file is saved as a .doc, the Object Type is shown as “Word 97-2003 Document”—because it is saved in a compatible mode for earlier versions of Word.
Beauchamps Solicitors began upgrading to Microsoft Word 2010 sometime after 19 July, 2013. Word 2010 has some important differences from Beauchamps' previous version, Word 2003.
Word 2010's default file type is .docx. You have to set it up or tell it to save a file as a .doc This is also known as Word 97–2003 Compatibility Mode. All the Word documents we have seen from Beauchamps after this upgrade have been saved as this sort of compatible .doc file.
Compatible, but different. Unlike Word 2003, .doc files in Word 2010 are not saved as a continous data stream, but rather as a compressed zip file–even though it is not saved with the zip extension.
Here's an example of this. We created two Word files, the first with Word 2003, saved with the default .doc extension…
…and the second in Word 2010 saved as with Word 97–2003 compatibility settings—which also shows up as a .doc file.
Then we renamed the file extensions on each one to .zip.
When we try to open the 2003 zip file we get this error message.
It won't open because it is not a compressed .zip file.
Opening the 2010 zip file works fine and extracts to a separate folder, because even though it is saved as a .doc file, it is in fact a compressed (zipped) XML file. The XML (EXtensible Markup Language) files are what Word 2007 and later use to render the document—unlike Word 2003, which we have seen is a single, uncompressed file.
That is also what happens when we go through the process with the fake Section 68 letter, Document X, because it was in fact saved well after Beauchamps upgraded to Word 2010 sometime in July 2013, and not less than a month after Dolores' death in December 2010 as presented.
Looking at the hexdump of each of these samples, we find they both show the classic series of bytes for a Word .doc file.
Word 2003 .doc:
Word 2010 .doc:
However, the actual structure of each is fundamentally different and the hex at bytes number 516 and 517 reveal the 2003 file to be produced by Word version 11.5606 and the 2010 file to be Version 14.0—the same Version 14.0 as the fake, backdated Section 68 letter.
We'll see if the fake, backdated Document X might more naturally fit into the sequence of Beauchamps Word files produced after 19 July 2013 and their upgrade to Word 2010.
We see that documents 2,4,5,and 6 were all created before Beauchamps' upgrade to Word 2010 (aka Version 14)—but the metadata persists through the upgrade process. Even though created in Word 2007, and then used to create documents in Word 2010, the original creation date and author are still there. Document X, of course (it is third from the end), shows none of this history.
Let's now compare the metrics of these 14 documents with Document X and see if it fits in sequence a bit more easily than trying to force it to reside next to documents actually created in 2010:
|Metric||13 Word Docs||The Fake|
|Word Version||Word Version 14 100%||Word Version 14|
|Creation Date||30 March 2011—10 February 2014||10 February 2014|
|Modified Date||21 August 2013—11 February 2014||11 February 2014|
|Last Modified By||Trainer 100%||Trainer|
|Naming Structure||Starting with date 100%||BLANK LETTER.doc|
Yep, Document X has found its home and rightful place amongst the Word 14 documents produced in late 2013 and early 2014. It couldn't be more clear from the above investigations:
The document Beauchamps attempted to pass off as a Section 68 letter sent on 22 December 2010 to Bowe's client and co–executor Onan Maxwell was actually created years after that date.
Our conclusion does not even take into account the context and content of the fake letter. Those investigations will be published soon. Stay tuned.