Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 16 September 2014

Thief ‘stole more than reported’ at special needs home

The amount of money stolen from special needs adults by Juanita Ferguson was double what was recorded in court documents, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

Juanita Ferguson carried out the thefts over a two-year period starting in September 2005 when she worked at Meadowbank Care Home, Waterside, Londonderry

Judge Desmond Marrinan sentenced Ferguson (35), from Lower Nassau Street in the city, to six months probation and 100 hours of community service. The care home’s owners, Four Seasons, has repaid the money to the 35 vulnerable adults that Ferguson robbed.

Confirming the amount stolen by Ferguson, an office adminstrator, as “substantially more” than has been reported, Jim McCaul, managing director of Four Seasons, said it reimbursed the residents because of its duty of care.

He told the Belfast Telegraph that every possible measure has been taken to prevent a similar incident from recurring.

He added: “This woman systematically, unscrupulously and maliciously exploited a group of very vulnerable adults in our home at Meadowbank.

“I can confirm that the amount taken was substantially more than what was recorded in court.

“We returned a very significant amount of money to the residents because our position is that we have a duty of care to our residents and our job is to restore confidence which we can safely do by the procedures now in place.

“As soon as our staff became aware that there was an anomaly in the accounts we took immediate action.

“The court vindicated that decision yesterday and she now has to live with a serious criminal record for the rest of her life. Her reputation is tarnished and she will never be allowed to work with vulnerable people again.

“I do have very strong feelings about the judgment handed down that I cannot go into and I am not sure if everyone concerned would be happy with the outcome. But I have to accept that the due course of the law was adhered to.

“Yesterday’s conviction sends out a clear message to those who think they can take advantage of a position of trust they may hold that they will be brought to court.

“It is just appalling that this happened in one of our facilities and to these vulnerable people. It is unforgivable what she did.”

The crown court in Derry heard on Wednesday that she used the money and sold her home to pay off her father's credit card debts.

The mother-of-four confessed when she walked into Lisnagelvin PSNI station the day after she was suspended from her work, after an internal audit.

Judge Marrinan was told that after she'd appeared in court on the charges last month, Ferguson's home was attacked and some of her children, aged from one to six, were verbally abused.

Ferguson, her husband and their four children have been re-housed on four occasions.

Judge Marrinan said only Ferguson's victims could forgive her.

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