A WOMAN from Milford Haven appeared in Haverfordwest Magistrates Court on Tuesday after stealing £9,831.99 from a man she was caring for.
Laura Jane Nichols, aged 26, of Vale Court, Houghton, wept as she pleaded guilty to the offence.
Prosecuting, Ellie Morgan said: “Nichols was employed as a team leader at Elliot’s Hill Care Home. The victim is a 41-year-old man with learning difficulties. He is unable to manage his finances and is cared for 24 hours a day. Nichols had full control over his finances as he would not be able to use a cash machine and would not be able to remember his pin number. His card was kept in a tin at the care home and Nichols was the only person who used his account.
“A bank statement arrived for the victim that showed he was overdrawn. Nichols’ manager, Tom Hales retrieved previous bank statements and found numerous withdrawals. Some were in Pembrokeshire and others in Cardiff. Some transactions were made at 3am, which could not have possibly been the patient.
“The patient sometimes visits his family in France. Withdrawals were made whilst he was visiting them. No other member of staff had any involvement. Copies of his statement were given to the police who have taken steps to reimburse him.
“She said she was paying bill and loans and was using the victim’s money to save hers”.
Defence solicitor, Jonathan Webb said: “Nichols pleaded guilty at the first opportunity and has been on bail since April last year. In that time, she has been dismissed from Elliot’s Care Home and has found alternative employment. She told her employers about the situation, who have said: “I hope to continue to employ Laura”.
“At the time, Nichols was holding down two jobs; one at the care home and one at the Bristol Trader. She had moved out and was trying to live her own life, but had financial difficulty. Nichols had been known to work 105 hours in one week.
“Nichols suffers from depression and anxiety, and had suffered from Guillain-Barré syndrome as a child, which affects the nervous system. Due to the depression, Nichols buried her head in the sand.
“Nichols had taken out money for a laptop for the victim, but they couldn’t get the one they wanted. Nichols looked after the money, though later put it towards her rent. This was like the first shot of heroin for a drug addict. She wasn’t living it up every weekend and didn’t have an easy job. She was suffering from a mental health issue, though we are not trying to minimise it, it is as bad as it seems.
“I think that you can accept jurisdiction. You can make a file that states she is being given credit for her early guilty plea by keeping it here. She needs help”.
The chair of the bench told the court: “There are so many aggravating features. This is financial abuse of a vulnerable person and nothing justifies that. We have made the decision that the reports will be referred to the Crown Court. Financial abuse of a very vulnerable person is not only breaching the trust of the victim, it is breaching the trust of the employer over a nine months period”.
Nichols was released on conditional bail on the condition that she is not allowed to contact directly or indirectly the victim and must co-operate with probation. Nichols will appear at Swansea Crown Court on February 7.