A woman who swindled almost £19,000 from the bank account of her lesbian lover's elderly mother wept in court as she was jailed for six months.
Fraudster Jenny McKernon (33) looked shocked as she was sent to prison at Craigavon Crown Court yesterday.
She cried as a prison officer put her in handcuffs to lead her from the dock, shouting out to her weeping family: "I love you all, thank you so much for all you have done."
Jailing McKernon, Judge Patrick Lynch QC said the "strong factors" in mitigation including her guilty plea, remorse and clear record, meant that he would reduce her sentence "in my view rather generously" to six months.
In addition to the jail sentence, the judge imposed an £18,000 compensation order in favour of the First Trust Bank, which had fully compensated the 83-year-old victim.
At an earlier hearing McKernon, from Shore Road in Newtownabbey, pleaded guilty to a single count of fraud by false representation in that between December 1, 2017 and July 24, 2018, she claimed she had permission to use the bank account of her victim.
Prosecuting lawyer Joseph Murphy told the court how McKernon was in a relationship with the victim's daughter and would have stayed in the woman's home up to four nights a week.
In June 2018 the pensioner "noted discrepancies in her account", with payments going to Amazon and PayPal despite the fact that she did not hold accounts with either company.
With McKernon's help, the pensioner reported the frauds to her bank, which told her they would post out forms.
The lawyer added those forms never arrived, although the bank did give her a refund.
The court heard that McKernon had "destroyed" the forms herself.
The following month, however, further fraudulent transactions were made and again "with the assistance of the defendant", those were reported to the bank.
"The defendant told her that the bank advised her to shred the statements," said Mr Murphy, adding that McKernon was arrested when the pensioner and her son spoke to the bank.
In total, McKernon had swindled £18,614 from the pensioner's account, money that she described in her victim impact statement as being her "life savings".
Mr Murphy told the court there had been around 200 transactions with Amazon and PayPal, many to buy various items, but others which transferred funds directly into McKernon's bank account.
When police searched McKernon's home they uncovered numerous "high value items" she had bought using the victim's money including a TV, a Hoover, tumble-drier, a hair remover device worth £200, steamer, iPhone and iPad.
Questioned by police, McKernon made full and frank admissions to the frauds.
Mr Murphy submitted these were aggravated by the fact the victim was elderly and vulnerable, her trust had been breached and the protracted length of the fraudulent behaviour, and the fact that she tried to hide the fraud, telling the victim to shred bank statements as well as the impact on McKernon's victim.
Defence counsel Michael Chambers told the court that he had been "explicitly instructed to offer her apologies for her conduct".
"Clearly I acknowledge that this was a mean offence and I acknowledge that it was committed against a vulnerable victim in circumstances where it amounts to a breach of trust," conceded the lawyer, who submitted that given the paper trail, "it was absolutely inevitable that the defendant was going to be caught".
He further submitted that given McKernon's mental health difficulties, her guilty plea, "full co-operation" with police and clear record, the judge could impose a non-custodial sentence such as a probation or community service order.
Judge Lynch told the lawyer, however, that "punishment and deterrence is always a factor in any sentencing exercise".
Jailing McKernon, the judge revealed that her victim felt betrayed by a person she had welcomed into her home "as one of the family" and who she felt "was laughing at me".
Quoting from the pensioner's statement, Judge Lynch said "it took years for me to save that money and it took her eight months to spend it".