A mother and daughter face jail after swindling £20,000 from an elderly resident at the care home where they worked.
Suzanne Stewart, 49, and Carly Douglas, 27, have admitted theft, money laundering and fraud offences after deceiving a vulnerable woman in their care at Sycamore Lodge, Sunderland.
Stewart, who was often known as Susan, was employed as General Manager of the Nookside-based care home while her daughter, Douglas, worked as a part-time care assistant.
Over a four-week period between June and July 2016, the 94-year-old had £18,000 stolen from her account via online transfer and almost £3,000 withdrawn at various ATMs.
The pair admitted their offences at Newcastle Crown Court earlier this month and will be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.
Detective Constable Terry Robertson, of Northumbria Police, said: “This was a despicable abuse of trust which saw two workers prey on an elderly woman in their care.
“Stewart and Douglas saw an opportunity to use the victim’s confused state for their own financial gain and knowingly stole her money on several occasions.
“They then attempted to cover up their crimes until the last possible moment, only choosing to plead guilty at court when their treachery was unequivocally laid bare.
“This was a disgraceful example of individuals exploiting a vulnerable woman, rather than offering the care and security which she deserved.
“I would like to thank the victim’s family for their patience throughout this case and the care home for their unrelenting cooperation. We are satisfied that Stewart and Douglas have been brought to justice.”
In total, 13 cash withdrawals worth £2,991 were made using the victim’s bank card between June 23 and July 20, 2016, while £18,000 was also transferred into Douglas’ account via an online transfer.
Within 48 hours of the five-figure transaction, Douglas moved £6,000 in two separate transfers into her mother’s bank account with the reference ‘Goose’.
However, after the victim’s bank became suspicious due to the account’s activity, a security block was triggered and the pair’s deceit soon became apparent.
On the afternoon of July 21, Douglas phoned the bank three times purporting to be her elderly victim in an attempt to release the block on the account. But after failing to answer the security questions, this proved unsuccessful.
Aware that suspicions were mounting, Stewart inputted a series of false entries into the care home’s internal database explaining why cash had been withdrawn, which she insisted came at the victim’s request.
Douglas and Stewart were arrested and initially interviewed about the offences in September 2016.
The investigation continued and further interviews were conducted, with both defendants denying any wrong doing.
In October 2017, Stewart, of Hemming Street, Sunderland, was charged with theft and money laundering.
Douglas, of Offerton Street, Sunderland, was charged with theft, money laundering, and fraud by false representation.
Both women were due to stand trial at Newcastle Crown Court from August 20, 2018, after initially denying their involvement, but then changed their pleas to guilty.
Stewart admitted the theft of £2,991.65 via ATM withdrawals, and money laundering relating to the £6,000 transferred from Douglas.
Douglas admitted the theft of £18,000 via bank transfer, money laundering relating to the £6,000 transfer and fraud by false representation in relation to the fraudulent telephone calls which she made to the bank.
They will now be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.
Linda Wrout, Managing Director of Sycamore Care Centre, said the care home has been left “devastated” by the pair’s actions.
“This was an appalling breach of trust which was carried out under the noses of both residents and employees,” she said.
“Stewart was a manager who everybody trusted, having been in her role for 12 years, and this meant we were all taken in by her lies and deceit. She and her daughter, Douglas, have caused enormous distress and upset to everyone who lives and works here.
“At Sycamore Care Centre, we do not handle any of our residents’ finances. The overwhelming majority of our service users have a nominated and trusted relative or friend to look after their affairs.
“We have been thoroughly inspected by Financial Governance at Sunderland City Council as a result of this case, and all of their findings verify our high standards and good practices, also stating that they could not suggest anything further that we could have put in place to mitigate the low risk.
“Our staff have also met with residents and their families to inform them of this case, explain our financial policies and procedures and offer any reassurances.
“I am incredibly proud of the work undertaken by the overwhelming majority of our staff, who will continue to provide the best possible care and support to the most vulnerable people in our communities.”