The luxury lifestyle of the “hard-up” file-sharing lawyer
The file-sharing lawyer who avoided a £200,000 fine by pleading hardship continues to live in a £700,000 home with a Bentley parked on the drive.
Andrew Crossley was the sole solicitor at ACS Law, a firm now notorious for sending letters to accused illegal downloaders, demanding hundreds of pounds in settlements against the threat of legal action.
Those letters drew the attention of online activists, 700 of whom targeted the ACS Law website last September with a distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack.
Rumours of my expansive wealth are much exaggerated
That exposed a database of emails, which contained details of 6,000 accused file-sharers and the content they were said to have downloaded – including pornographic material.
The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) earlier this month announced it would have fined Crossley £200,000 for the security breach, but reduced the fine to a mere £800 after Crossley submitted a signed statement claiming he was now of “limited means”.
That Crossley lives on “limited means” might come as a surprise to his neighbours on the quiet street of his leafy West Sussex home, where PC Pro located Crossley earlier this week. A similar 2,900-square-foot, five-bedroom home on the private lane recently sold for £730,000 – close to the £710,000 that Crossley paid when he bought the house with his partner in 2009.
Parked on the drive out front of the detached house is a gleaming Bentley Arnage – a vehicle popular with Premiership footballers. When we asked Crossley how ownership of the luxury car – which costs up to £170,000 new – squared with his claims of “limited means”, he told us the car wasn’t his, although he refused to disclose who the current owner was.
The ICO’s proclamation that Crossley couldn’t afford a higher fine raised eyebrows, as ACS Law was accused by lawyers representing the alleged file-sharers of making substantial amounts of money before the “speculative invoicing” model was brought to an end. The defending barrister claimed Crossley earned up to £180,000 a month from the invoicing.
“Mr Crossley was going to make vast sums, but adverse publicity put an end to that,” said Guy Tritton, a barrister representing some of the accused told the Patents County Court. “If you make £180,000 in just one month, things are going pretty well.”
Crossley disputes the assertion of wealth, saying the fortune he supposedly made from sending the settlement letters is “mythical”.
“Rumours of my expansive wealth are much exaggerated,” he told PC Pro. Asked how much money was left after ACS Law was closed, he said the “smallish amount” was doled out to his remaining clients, and “I was paid what I was due”.
As evidence of his financial status, Crossley said he had shown the ICO recent bank statements and signed an affidavit. While still registered as a solicitor, he is currently unemployed.
Crossley is currently under investigation by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal, following accusations that he “bullied” people into making payments, which he denies.
Read next month’s PC Pro – on sale 16 June – for more exclusive revelations about ACS Law and the flaws in the ICO investigation.