'Grave breach of trust' saw carer steal from OAPs

First published in News by , Senior Reporter

A CARER defrauded more than £5,000 from elderly men in north Hampshire who she was supposed to be looking after.

Donna Wallace obtained debit cards and pin codes from Edward Pearce and Raymond Howlett, whom she cared for while working for the Basingstoke-based Echoes Community Care.

The 50-year-old appeared in the dock at Winchester Crown Court after a jury found her guilty of three counts of fraud at the end of a four-day trial in October.

Wallace had denied the charges, saying the victims gave her permission to use their debit cards.

The victims, who are both in their 70s, were too ill to come to court to give evidence. Mr Pearce gave his account via video link from his bed.

Wallace stole £4,800 from Mr Pearce between October 24, 2010 and January 18, 2011, when he was a resident at Rose Hodson Court, a sheltered housing complex in Wellmans Meadow, Kingsclere.

The trial heard the 75-year-old loaned Wallace £300, giving her his card and pin code, when she appeared to be in distress about her own financial problems.

She then used the card to withdraw cash from machines in Chineham, Kingsclere, Newbury and Tadley.

The fraud came to light when a friend of Mr Pearce contacted the police, after the victim had expressed concern about his bank account.

Officers then linked his case to that of Mr Howlett, who had received care from Wallace at his home in Silchester. She took a total of £580 from his account in May 2011.

Graham Logan, defending, said Wallace, a single mother of four, did not spend the money on “high-living” and was faced with eviction for rent arrears.

Judge Paul Dunkels sentenced Wallace to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, and ordered her to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

He said: “These offences were a grave breach of trust. Each of the victims was more than 70 and frail. You took advantage of their dependency and vulnerability to steal money from them.”

The court heard that Wallace, of Rangewood Avenue, Reading, had been sacked following an internal inquiry by Echoes.

After the sentence, PC Brian Dixon, Kingsclere beat officer, told The Gazette: “This was a despicable crime. I hope the sentence sends a clear message to those in the care profession that this kind of offending will be investigated and dealt with.”

He also praised Echoes Community Care, of Priestley Road, Basingstoke, for their support during his investigation.

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