A Basingstoke woman stole £12,000 from her ‘elderly and frail’ grandmother while acting as her carer, a court has heard.

Sharlene Bologa, of Bennet Close, Basingstoke, was sentenced to 20 months in prison for her 'appalling act of deceit’ by Winchester Crown Court on Thursday (February 11).

The court heard how the 33-year-old moved in with her paternal grandmother, Pamela Butler, in 2011, as she had nowhere else to go.

She did not have to pay any rent in exchange for acting as Ms Butler’s carer, who was 82 at the time. It was intended as a temporary arrangement but, when Bologa married two years later, her husband joined her at her grandmother’s home.

Ms Ellie Fargin, prosecuting, told the court that between August 1 2015 and September 1 2018, Bologa was entrusted with doing online food shopping, withdrawing cash and handling the paying of Ms Butler’s bills. Ms Butler gave her granddaughter access to her card and pin number.

Bologa proceeded to “help herself” to Ms Butler’s accounts, admitting in interview to purchases including from GAME, Primark, and to pay her phone bill.

She also failed to pay bills including gas and electricity, as well as newspaper and milk deliveries, and racked up debt on her grandmother’s credit cards.

In August 2018, Bologa and her husband went on holiday abroad and it was then that “matters came to a head”, said Ms Fargin.

Bologa’s mother came to look after her mother-in-law, and it was then that Bologa’s actions were discovered.

Ms Fargin told the court that Bologa had stopped post from being delivered to the house while she was away, in an assumed attempt at concealing her actions, and the total loss to the victim was £12,000.

She said: “The defendant was her only granddaughter, and she felt very let down by her.”

Ms Butler asked, in December 2020, that the matter be taken no further and that the most lenient outcome be given to her granddaughter, due to the detrimental impact it was having on herself and her family.

Mr Richard Saynor, defending said: “I concede that this is a matter that crosses the custody threshold.”

However, in mitigation, he said: “It was always the intention of my client to plead guilty. She accepts full responsibility for this. She had no intention of putting her grandmother through a trial for this. Ms Bologa accepts she has taken this money and should not have done so.”

Mr Saynor added that Bologa “took on the responsibility of taking over the care for her grandmother when she was both very young and not well equipped to manage her own finances, far less that of someone who was then 82.”

He said that while “it is not an excuse”, Bologa suffers with dyslexia, which makes financial organisation more difficult, and she had a lack of family support.

“There were times during that period where she was asking family for support and it was not provided,” he said.

Mr Saynor also drew attention to Bologa’s “significant regret and remorse” and to reports which outlined that she had suffered from anxiety and depression since her arrest, and was of “low risk” of reoffending or to her grandmother, but of “medium risk” of harm to herself, including expressions of “suicidal ideations”.

He said that she has caused a “rift” in the family, is no longer able to speak to her grandmother or parents, and is “estranged” from her husband.

“This has had quite an impact on Ms Bologa because she has been split from all family ties that would usually provide support through something like this,” he said.

Mr Saynor urged the court to consider a suspended sentence, potentially including some counselling and rehabilitation activities advised in the reports.

However, addressing the defendant, Judge Angela Morris said: “The offence to which you have pleaded guilty spans a period of three years in which you were the sole carer for your elderly and frail grandmother, abusing the trust she had put in you by helping yourself to her accounts and savings.”

Judge Morris labelled Bologa’s actions as an “appalling act of deceit”. She added: “Your grandmother was 82 years of when she gave you a roof over your head. No rent was requested or paid. All that was asked of you in return was to help her and care for her. Hardly, one might think, the most arduous of situations.”

Judge Morris noted that Ms Butler had, in March 2013, a “healthy balance” on her accounts and “financial independence”.

Referencing the family troubles, she added: “The reality is you must have known exactly what you were doing. Your grandmother gave you a roof over your head for years so what more you could have expected is beyond my comprehension.”

As the card and pin had been provided, the bank did not refund any of the money and Bologa’s parents were forced to settle the debts.

“There is not one victim in this case but three,” she said.

“You have not just stolen your grandmother’s money, you have stolen her trust in the people who should be closest to her, and you have stolen her financial independence.

“Your grandmother was particularly vulnerable. That is why she required care.

“Your family have had to suffer, not only your deceit but the consequences of your actions, not just financially but the emotional.”

She continued: “You were in your twenties when you took on the role of caring for your grandmother. You were not a child or a teenager, and you were neither immature nor vulnerable. You were not physically or mentally abused by somebody to act in the way that you did and therefore it makes your actions all the more incomprehensible.

“I have concluded, with regard to everything, that this is not a case which can be suspended. Because of the seriousness of the offence, it can only be marked by an immediate custodial sentence.”

Bologa was handed a 20-month prison sentence, reduced from 30 months on account of her early guilty plea.