A former Victorian solicitor has been jailed for shoddy dealings with an elderly client in which he dishonestly obtained more than $1.2 million.

A former Victorian solicitor swindled more than $1.2 million from an elderly client and splashed the cash on female staff in a “sad attempt to buy affection”.

Euan Peter Vance, 53, has been jailed for more than four years after forging signatures to make himself power of attorney for unwell George Cutts, who lived in a Bendigo nursing home.

He dipped into Mr Cutts’ retirement account, withdrawing cash and cutting cheques from 2010 until more than $1.2 million was siphoned.

“For over 18 months, Mr Vance did things, serious criminal things, that no solicitor should ever do,” Victorian Supreme Court Justice Michael Croucher said on Friday.

“(It) qualifies as thoroughly disgraceful behaviour by a solicitor.”

Vance spent $130,000 on cars for female staff and their families, paid for one woman’s rent and holidays and bought one a ring.

Justice Croucher rejected Vance’s claim that Mr Cutts, 87, told him to spend money on single mothers.

“All of that is just nonsense,” he said.

“(It was) a sad attempt to buy affection from others by splurging on cars.”

Vance, a former religious minister, was jailed for four years and six months on Friday after pleading guilty to 17 fraud-related charges and was struck off the legal practitioners roll.

Mr Cutts asked Vance to become his power of attorney after his carer died in 2009 and he couldn’t sign the paperwork himself.

“It all started innocently enough,” Justice Croucher said.

Vance, who accepted he was a “bad lawyer”, had $10,000 in his pocket when he was arrested in 2011 and later directed police to $340,000 in a safe buried in his Bendigo shed.

“He said he was trying to protect Mr Cutts’ money from the global financial crisis,” Justice Croucher said.

Vance bought two properties which he said were investments for Mr Cutts but the court heard about $400,000 remained unaccounted for.

Mr Cutts died in 2012 but Vance has been ordered to pay more than $500,000 into his estate.

He was also charged over ill-dealings with the trust account of a woman.

Justice Croucher said Vance, who moved to Queensland in 2012, was now happily married.

“He is determined to make a go of things,” he said.

Vance must serve a minimum of two years and three months’ jail.