A Derry woman who fraudulently used the debit card of a woman suffering from dementia, spending more than £10,000 on purchases that included hotel stays and restaurants, has been jailed for nine months.
Danielle McDermott (25) who has an address in Belfast, had admitted the fraud and stealing £300 from two women with whom she was employed as a carer at a court appearance earlier this week.
Today (Thursday) she was sentenced to nine months in jail.
Judge Philip Babington said: “’Unfortunately as people live longer more and more people need the assistance of carers to enable them to live in their own homes.
“This sort of conduct stands in stark contrast to the very good and necessary work carried out by the thousands of carers who are honest and caring. There is no doubt in my mind that this is very serious, mean and nasty offending and it is this sort of offending that has to be deterred by the imposition of immediate custodial sentences”.
At a court apperance on Tuesday the court heard that the offences occurred when McDermott was employed as a care worker.
“The victim was an elderly lady, “ Mr Andrew Crawford, Prosecutor, said. “The accused made call outs to her house to assist in various capacities in the morning and lunchtime.
“The victim became suspicious that money was disappearing and she was short of money all the time.”
He revealed how at the beginning of October 2013 the woman’s daughter had given her between £220 and £240 before McDermott made her house call. When McDermott left and the woman checked her mother’s purse, only £40 was remaining.
The court was told the woman’s daughter marked notes, took note of their serial number and set up a mobile phone camera to try and get footage of any misbehaviour.
“When she checked the handbag £60 was missing, “ he said. “The camera phone footage showed the defendant in her mother’s handbag.”
He said the police were called and conducted a search and found one of the marked notes on McDermott.
The defendant was interviewed on several occasions and denied stealing any money but said she had been given £20 to collect pre-made dinners from the butchers.
As a result of the incident, McDermott was suspended from her job and investigations began into other potential vulnerable adults that she had been caring for.
“They became concerned about suspicious transactions on the account of a 75 year-old woman with dementia, “ the prosecutor told the court.
“There were transactions on the account which were web based although the client had no Internet.
“It was also found that the woman’s account had gone from £11,995 on August 13 to £474 on May 31, 2014”
The court heard that 29 transactions had been on the account between August 13 2013 and April 14 2014 in the name of Danielle McDermott.
“The money was used for a variety of purposes, “ said Mr Crawford. “Payment for hotel stays, restaurants, loans obtained, and money transferred to paypal. CCTV footage showed the defendant getting off a flight and checking into a hotel using the stolen card details.”
The court was told that the money lost is being borne by both the bank and the people she bought services off.
Defence barrister Ivor McAteer described the offences as “mean” and said they do not make for pleasant reading.
He said many of the transactions were used by his client to make her feel better but she had a nagging guilt she was doing something very wrong and that ultimately it would catch up with her.
“I’m told that £2,000 has been gathered which can be paid this week, “ he said. “My client is now working and her plan is to pay back £250 per month. She doesn’t have her sorrows to seek.”