Monday, 23 October 2017

Carer accused of OAPs fraud

A CARER used her elderly clients’ money to buy clothes and cigarettes for herself, a court

A CARER used her elderly clients’ money to buy clothes and cigarettes for herself, a court heard.

Michelle Brandish withdrew more than £1,700 from their accounts using bank cards belonging to residents of Towse Court, a sheltered housing complex in Icknield Place, Goring, where she worked.

The 42-year-old is on trial at Oxford Magistrates’ Court, accused of defrauding three residents between April and October last year.

Police began investigating in September when four withdrawals totalling about £600 were made from a Lloyds Bank account belonging to Anne Stobie, who is in her sixties and severely disabled due to multiple sclerosis.

She did not spot the money had gone but her family became suspicious after reading her bank statement.

Her Lloyds debit card had also been used to buy goods including dog food and cigarettes at a Co-op store in Didcot. Mrs Stobie does not smoke or keep a pet.

CCTV footage from the store showed Brandish purchasing the items and police found the till roll confirmed she had used Mrs Stobie’s bank card.

The court heard that the carer was arrested at work on October 2 and officers found the card in her handbag along with the pensioner’s Barclaycard credit card inside a half-empty crisp packet. Police searched Brandish’s house in Beeching Way, Wallingford, where they found a Marks & Spencer credit card statement belonging to Violet Dance, another Towse Court resident who died earlier this year, aged 93.

The card, which was not found, had been used to buy £740 worth of clothes from Pink Boutique, an online retailer, and police found several garments at Brandish’s house matching those ordered.

Officers then questioned her about the disappearance of £400 from a Santander bank account belonging to Towse Court resident Joan Bosson, who is 92 and has lung cancer.

On September 5, Mrs Bosson’s daughter had tried to take out cash on her mother’s behalf but this was declined as there had been four withdrawals of £100 the previous day.

Towse Court’s CCTV footage showed Brandish leaving the complex alone about 20 minutes before the money was taken from a cash machine in Goring high street.

Investigating officer Pc Rebecca Tanner told the court that Brandish’s bedroom was “chock-a-block” with new, unused clothing, handbags and purses. There was also evidence that she was in debt and using a pawnbroker.

Brandish told the court that Mrs Stobie had given her both cards and their PINs and asked her to take out cash on her behalf. She said she gave the money to the pensioner who refused to take her cards back.

She admitted buying the cigarettes and dog food at the Co-op but said this was due to a mix-up at the till. She believed she had paid for them separately using cash while using the card to buy groceries for Mrs Stobie.

She also admitted taking Mrs Dance’s credit card statement home but said the pensioner gave it to her and asked for advice about a “problem” with the account.

She denied ordering the clothes.

Brandish said Mrs Bosson had also asked her to withdraw money for her, which she did and this time she returned the card as well.

She told the court: “These allegations have made me feel awful. I’ve been through hell and back.

“I’m in poor health anyway and this has never happened to me before — I don’t have a criminal record or anything.

“I’m very upset because I had permission to use those cards and now I’m getting blamed for something I didn’t do.

“I never thought I was doing anything wrong. I’ve always put other people before myself and I was just trying to help my clients. If I’d known this would happen I’d never have agreed.”

Richard Atkins, prosecuting, asked why she had kept Ms Stobie’s cards in a crisp packet instead of handing them to a manager or keeping them safe at her house.

Brandish said she believed this was the safest place for them as her purse had been stolen previously and she often had visitors to her home.

Mr Atkins told district judge Tim Pattinson that it was beyond coincidence that Mrs Dance’s card was used to buy items from Pink Boutique, which were then recovered from Brandish’s home.

“This is not a simple case of an accident or a kindness undertaken and then forgotten,” he said.

“Being short of money is not a crime but it certainly provides the motive and Mrs Brandish also had the opportunity, that being her employment and a position she could abuse.”

The trial continues.

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