A CARER who stole £30,000 from a vulnerable house-bound pensioner and pawned £12,500 of her jewellery has been jailed for three years.
Preston Crown Court heard how mother-of-four Rebecca Robinson emptied 79-year-old Margaret Peel’s bank account, applied for and maxed out credit cards in the victim’s name and also opened fraudulent accounts with Marks and Spencer and online retailer Very.
The court heard gambling addict Robinson intercepted correspondence and telephone calls warning of her victim’s rising debt in a bid to stop her crimes coming to light.
However it did come out in September 2018 when Marks and Spencer launched an investigation after becoming concerned about activity on the account Robinson had set up in her victim’s name.
Mrs Peel’s son Tony told the court that his mother’s health deteriorated when news of Robinson’s betrayal came to light and said she died last February fearing the repercussions of the debt, which he estimated at closer to £65,000.
Recorder Tim Harrington described 35-year-old Robinson’s actions as an abuse of trust and responsibility which had a serious detrimental effect on Mrs Peel and her family.
Prosecuting, Patrick Williamson said Robinson had been employed as Mrs Peel’s carer between 2012 and September 2018.
She was occasionally asked to get shopping for Mrs Peel and withdraw money from her bank account for her.
Mr Williamson said that in 2016 Robinson began to use Mrs Peel’s bank account to fund her lifestyle.
Over 14 months she opened up NatWest Visa and Mastercards accounts and used them to pay off the Marks and Spencer cards and Very cards. During that time she ran up credit card debts of £7,500 and £13,000 and also pawned £12,500 of Mrs Peel’s jewellery – much of it having belonged to Mrs Peel’s mother – at H&T Pawnbrokers in Blackburn. For that she received around £2,500.
The prosecution put Robinson’s bank transaction criminality at £30,000, although Mr Williamson said that money had now been paid in full by NatWest to the late Mrs Peel’s estate.
When she was first voluntarily interviewed by police at Clitheroe Police Station, Robinson she accepted fraudulently opening up the M and S credit card in Mrs Peel’s name and accepted making a few purchases. However she said the Very account had been set up with Mrs Peel’s knowledge.
She estimated she had spent over £10,000, which she to linked to her gambling addiction, but claimed a repayment plan had been agreed with the victim.
At that time she said she earned £500-per-month and received child tax credits.
Further investigations were carried out and Robinson was interviewed a second time in January 2019 and she admitted being responsible for the losses associated to Mrs Peel’s bank account and the credit cards.
In his victim impact statement Mr Peel said he had been left with heart palpitations as a result of Robinson’s offending and his 86-year-old father, Fred, had become quiet and deeply concerned about money worries.
Mr Peel, 51, who said he has looked over hundreds of his mother’s bank and credit card statements, said Robinson spent the money on clothes, designer handbags and travel, as well as a washing machine, fridge, carpets, a black basque from Anne Summers and an Amazon Echo.
Robinson, of Beech Street, Clitheroe, pleaded guilty to fraud, theft from an employer and dishonestly making a false representation.
Defending, David Farley said his client provided an excellent level of care for Mrs Peel, who was somebody she regarded as a friend, which often far exceeded the 15 hours a week she was paid for.
He said Robinson felt shame for what she had done and accepted she had to be punished.
He said his client, who had been diagnosed with cancer in 2004, had been a long-term gambling addict.
Mr Farley said: “Addiction makes you selfish. It makes you blinkered. That is what happened here.
“She didn’t set out to fool Mrs Peel. She very much liked her. They were friends. The addiction took over.”
Recorder Harrington said: “These offences relate to criminality against an elderly lady, Margaret Peel, who you were trusted to look after. You were her full-time carer and her friend. All the time you were stealing from her.”
Mr Williamson said the crown would not be seeking a proceeds of crime hearing or a compensation order because Robinson had no real assets and was unemployed as a result of publicity from the case.
@ Lancashire Telegraph