A FRAUDSTER who cashed £1,000 in pension cheques stolen from of an 85-year-old woman has escaped a prison sentence.
Florist Anna Forrest, 30, of Mayfair Buildings, Durham Road, Sunderland, was visiting her mother in Croydon when she became involved in the swindle.
She was convicted at Croydon Magistrates’ Court of three charges of fraud by false representation, namely cashing three Department of Work and Pension (DWP) cheques belonging to the pensioner on November 7, 2011.
The court was told that she entered a bank in the town with a man, later charged with fraud offences totalling £12,000, and convinced staff she was entitled to cash the cheques on behalf of the OAP.
She used her own driving licence as proof of identity.
Forrest claims she had spent the afternoon in a local pub with people she did not know very well and her involvement was limited to one visit to one bank and she received no financial reward for carrying out the fraud.
She said she did not know she was associating herself with people, who were “working the area” and involved in a much wider fraud and was unaware of the scale of their offending, the court heard
Forrest has been employed as a florist for nine years – the last six with the same firm – and the court heard she has made efforts to “move away from her juvenile behaviour”.
Until recently her partner was on benefits and she was the family’s sole breadwinner, supporting her young child.
“We believe these offences are very serious,” bench chairman James Philips told Forrest. “It was an offence involving an 85-year-old lady’s pension money and would have caused her a huge amount of distress.
“We considered an immediate custodial sentence to show you how bad these offences were.
“You came perilously close to going straight into custody today.”
Forrest was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment, suspended for twelve months, and ordered to complete 180 hours community service work.
She was also ordered to pay £1,002 compensation to the DWP and £300 costs at the rate of £10 per week.