A woman who stole £100,000 from her elderly and ill mother has been jailed for three years.
Susan Linda Hayes, 55, of Leyland Lane, Leyland, was expected to safeguard the financial interests of her mother Patricia Bancroft after she was diagnosed with dementia.
Instead Hayes, who had been appointed to a power of attorney, systematically plundered her mother’s bank accounts, leaving her with just £1.55 in one account, and £28,000 in unpaid care fees.
Mrs Bancroft, 84, who had moved to Croston Park nursing home in Croston, had agreed to pay for her daughter’s honeymoon – but her greedy daughter went on to make withdrawals of tens of thousands from her bank accounts, the court heard.
She and her husband also moved into her mother’s former home on Leyland Lane.
The Office of the Public Guardian, which protects people who may not have the mental capacity to make certain decisions, became involved when unpaid care fees to Lancashire County Council came to light.
Hayes eventually pleaded guilty to fraud while occupying a position of attorney between September 2011 and October 2014.
Prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, Karen Brooks said: “Mrs Bancroft appointed her to act as sole attorney for the management of her property.
“There were issues raised regarding her mother’s health and a diagnosis on January 4, 2013 of vascular dementia.
“It was decided she lacked the capacity to manage her property and financial affairs.
“On April 4, 2014, concerns were raised with the Office of the Public Guardian – it was clear the defendant was still living at her mother’s address and there was concern they were not paying rent and issues were raised that care home fees had not been paid.
“This is a high culpability case in that this is an abuse of position and trust and there’s an element of this behaviour occurring due to the vulnerability of her mother at the time.
“The authority reported there had been a conversation with the defendant where she confessed to misappropriating her mother’s money for her own gain.”
Mrs Bancroft’s monthly income from the state pension and two occupational pensions was £1,700. By that stage, the fees owed to LCC were £28,000.
Investigators found the balance of her mother’s first bank account was £1.55.
The second, into which her pension was paid, had withdrawals of more than £117,000 and £6,950 was withdrawn from a third account.
Defending, Beverley Hackett said the cash went to assist with “every day living” and her husbands debts for “ventures he became involved with”.
She added: “The time since she entered her guilty pleas have been extremely difficult for her. This is a lady who has suffered ill health for a number of years –perhaps she’s not best placed to have been put in the position of attorney.
“She suffered from depression from 2007 and has been medicated. There are difficulties in her background of her personal nature which have impacted on her ability to carry on the very significant role.
“She has lost her good character at this age – she had lived a law-abiding life and has been in work and she has enjoyed work and employment. She is fearful of what may follow and this has been part-punishment already.
“Nobody knows what her mother would have thought of this situation but perhaps they may take the view an immediate term of imprisonment may not have been
what her mother wanted.”
Judge Robert Altham said: “There’s nothing to say her illnesses predisposed her to dishonesty – and no suggestion depression makes you dishonest.
“The victim was your elderly mother. Sadly, I’m told she died in June this year at the age of 84. In September 2011, you sought and obtained a power of attorney and by January 2013 your mother’s condition was such you began to regularly exercise that power on her behalf. By the end of that year, problems were apparent.
“The means of the fraud were really quite simple. She had three bank accounts. You plundered them, you treated her money as your own. You made withdrawals at will.
“If they were daily living expenses, they were expenses beyond your means. Whatever the money was used for, it was dishonestly put for the purposes you chose rather than for what it was intended.
“I don’t know the effect on the beneficiaries of your mother’s estate but the loss to the estate and beneficiaries will of course be significant.
“The real gall of this offence is you chose to take advantage of someone in respect of whom you were supposed to provide protection.”