Belfast Telegraph

Ardglass carer Telford who stole £17,450 from dementia victim spared jail

By Gerry McLaughlin

A mother-of-four took advantage of an elderly woman with Alzheimer's and stole £17,450 from her bank account over a 17-month period, a court heard yesterday.

Margaret Iris Telford (54), of Kildares Court, Ardglass, Co Down, who was a carer for the complainant Dorcas McMordie, pleaded guilty to 17 counts of fraud by false representation at Dungannon Crown Court.

The court was told that the elderly Ms McMordie regularly gave the defendant sums of cash as gifts over and above her usual pay for looking after her. In 2013, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and the defendant was "well aware" of her condition.

Judge Stephen Fowler told the court that the complainant asked the defendant to use her card to make withdrawals from a bank machine as she did not know how to operate the card.

But the defendant then went to the ATM when the complainant was away, visiting with family or late at night.

The defendant also knew the elderly lady had money as she had been given "gifts" of cash in the past, the court was told.

The defendant pleaded guilty to 17 identical charges of dishonestly using Ms McMordie's bank card for her own financial gain on dates between May 27 2013 and October 12 2014.

Judge Stephen Fowler gave the defendant, who has significant "psychiatric and psychological" issues, a nine-month jail sentence suspended for three years "with some hesitation".

The crime was uncovered when a suspicious bank manager noticed a series of withdrawals from the elderly woman's account over a 17-month period.

He spoke with the complainant, who confirmed that she had not made any withdrawals as she did not know how to operate the debit card.

The manager contacted the PSNI and the defendant was interviewed about the alleged fraud in 2015. She pleaded guilty to the charge in July 2016.

The judge said that an aggravating feature of the case was that it was a "breach of trust that happened over a significant period of time".

It was a "significant amount of money", he added.

In mitigation there was a very early plea that saved the case from going to trial as the complainant was not in a position to give evidence in court.

The defendant had expressed considerable shame, embarrassment and remorse, the judge noted.

She had been subject to significant trauma in her early life and was under considerable stress in the lead-up to the matter before the court.

The defendant, who is on benefits, had gathered £2,500 as restitution and a compensation order was made for that amount.

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