By Anne Tindall

Former Phillip Island legal clerk Cheryle Rowe, 62 (centre), leaves Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court last Thursday. Photo: ABC Gippsland.

Former Phillip Island legal clerk Cheryle Rowe, 62 (centre), leaves Latrobe Valley Magistrates Court last Thursday. Photo: ABC Gippsland.

JAN Fleming is one of a number of clients of a Cowes’ legal firm who was allegedly defrauded of a large sum of money by staff member Cheryle Rowe, 62, who appeared in court last Thursday charged with misappropriating $4.3 million.
“There were 62 of us or thereabouts who lost money. I have lost $300,000,” she said.
“There may be no justice. We may not get our money back. I’m not very hopeful.”
Mrs Rowe, who now lives at Mt Eliza, is facing 60 charges of theft and deception.
She was employed by Birch, Ross and Barlow for 20 years when the offences are alleged to have occurred.
Mrs Rowe is accused of stealing money from clients rather than investing it for them.
A group of alleged victims from Phillip Island travelled to the Latrobe Valley Magistrates’ Court at Morwell for a directions hearing last Thursday, November 10.
Rowe was the conveyancer who handled the sale of a property after Jan’s divorce.
“Birch, Ross and Barlow were offering 6 per cent interest on the money. That was back in 2000,” Jan said.
“I was getting paid interest every three months which is what I lived off. Occasionally I would get it late. One day I went in, I was quite angry and I suppose rude. I asked her where my money was and that it was what I lived off.
“It was like a Ponzi scheme,” she alleged.
“She was relying on people bringing in money and when people wanted their money she would borrow it off someone else. It’s like a pyramid scheme,” Jan claimed.
Her partner of six years, John Adam, said she and Cheryle were good friends.
“She projected herself as a good friend. Jan looked after Cheryle’s mother when she wasn’t well and took her to hospital, did her garden.
“When it was her birthday Jan would always give her flowers. They would have coffee together and all the time she was robbing Jan.
“When Cheryle did the conveyancing for this house she didn’t pay the stamp duty. Jan found out she didn’t have a title to this place.
“Eventually the government paid for the title but that didn’t happen until this year.”
Jan said she has tried not to be angry.
“At first I was sad and angry and I did a lot of crying and was bewildered. I have good health and I didn’t want to get ill. Living on the pension isn’t easy.”
“We had to cancel a holiday to the Kimberley on The Outback Spirit,” John said.
“We have taken that holiday now but it doesn’t change the fact Cheryle robbed Jan blind for 15 years.”
John is a well-known artist and he says he even gave paintings to Cheryle which he hung in her office for her.
“I got them back,” he says.
Jan first heard about it all when she read the initial story in The Advertiser.
She rang Cheryle who told her it wasn’t her and that she wasn’t well.
“You know what I did? I bought her flowers because I felt sorry for her.”
Cheryl’s lawyer is Bernie Balmer who represented Mick Gatto.
John said; “Bernie felt sorry for Jan and he said to Jan’s lawyer that he was going to see if he could get an affidavit from Cheryle to say she had robbed Jan and he got one.”
“Jan has taken this surprisingly well,” John said.
“She does get weepy and angry sometimes but she has just got on with her life.”
“What’s the use of holding onto anger,” Jan said.