A Devon County Council carer has been jailed for stealing thousands of pounds from a vulnerable dementia sufferer and using it to go on a binge drinking spree.
Michalea Hallett, aged 21, was employed by the council through a private care provider to look after the frail 81-year-old, who was so confused she did not realise she was being fleeced.
The old lady wrote eight cheques because she thought she should be paying Hallett for the care she was giving her, Exeter Crown Court was told.
Hallett started binge drinking to cope with the death of two close friends and cashed the cheques so she could afford more alcohol.
She was jailed after a Judge told her that her breach of trust towards a highly vulnerable victim had been extreme.
Hallett, of Stella Maris Court, Bideford, admitted eight offences of fraud charges and was jailed for seven months by Judge Phillip Wassall.
He told her:”You used the money to purchase alcohol to enable you to cope with depression arising from your family circumstances and the death of two friends.
“You come before the court for the first time for what is a really serious offence because of the level of the breach of trust.
“You say you did not complete the cheques yourself but that really doesn’t matter. She was in such a state of not knowing what she was doing that you might just as well have done.
“She was so confused she thought she should pay you and you did not disabuse her. This is a case where it is difficult to conceive of a higher level of trust being placed in an employee.
“It is difficult to strike a balance between the seriousness of the offence, which merits a lengthy sentence, and your personal circumstance, being only 21, with no previous convictions and a difficult family background and the pressures that entailed.
“You acted out of character but I come back to the level of the breach of trust and the fact it went on over three months and there were eight separate times when it was done. You had eight opportunities to withdraw from this and chose not to do so.”
Miss Janice Eagles, prosecuting, said Hallett was a carer paid by a company working for Devon County Council providing care for the victim in her home in Bideford, North Devon.
She was looking after the 81-year-old who suffered from dementia and was unaware of the £6,210 fraud, which was uncovered by her family, who were recompensed by the bank.
Miss Eagles said:”This was a planned fraud which targeted a vulnerable victim.”
Miss Julia Brassington, defending, said the victim tried to give Hallett money and she had been binge drinking. She said she was not a sophisticated criminal and was remorseful.
She said Hallett was under strain because she had spent years helping to look after two disabled brothers and had started drinking after becoming depressed over the deaths of two friends.
She stopped the offending of her own volition but had lost her job as a result of the allegations and suffered abuse and vandalism because of the publicity.