AN 87-year-old man was almost evicted from his sheltered accommodation home because the warden had stolen his life savings.
The housebound pensioner, who was living at the Sanderlings in Ryhope, had no idea his previously healthy bank balance was overdrawn and his household bills were in the red because carer Margaret Tumilty had pocketed up to £30,000 belonging to him.
His home at the complex was saved when Tumilty stole £1,732 from another vulnerable resident to pay off the arrears.
At Newcastle Crown Court the disgraced 62-year-old was jailed for three years.
Prosecutor Jacqueline Wilkinson told the court Tumilty fell under suspicion when the son of a third victim realised £11,000 was missing from his 88-year-old mum’s bank account and none of her bills were being paid.
Tumilty was arrested, and admitted she had taken between £30,000 and £35,000 from her three frail and vulnerable victims between 2006 and 2010.
Mrs Wilkinson said Tumilty, of The Grove, Ashbrooke, had been a trusted warden and employed in the caring profession throughout her career.
Even after her arrest the main victim asked police: “I’m not putting Margaret in any awkward position here am I?
“I miss her very much, I’m fond of her.”
Investigations showed a total of £30,000 was missing from his account, but prosecutors accept some of that would have been legitimately used on his behalf.
Mrs Wilkinson said: “Due to the fact this defendant was taking money from his account he became overdrawn.
“As a result of that his rent account fell into arrears and his utility bills were not being paid.
“When he was spoken to it was quite clear he would have absolutely no idea how to use a cash card.”
Tumilty managed to stop the pensioner being evicted by telling a 76-year-old resident, who has a history of heart problems, that he needed to hand over £1,732 for furnishings.
The court heard the third victim, who used a wheelchair and had a heart condition, had been convinced to move her life savings from an ISA into an easy access account.
Mrs Wilkinson said: “Money was transferred to a more readily available account and then this defendant was able to take money out using the cash card. Mrs Tumilty suggested it.
“The victim said she had signed an authority for the defendant to withdraw money from her account.”
Tumilty had admitted theft and fraud at an earlier hearing.
Mr Recorder Wilby told her: “This was a deliberate scheme of fraud against elderly people.
“These people really had little idea what on earth was going on.
“That money has been spent and she has no means, there is no possibility of them getting it back.
“This is presumably their life savings.
“This was about as much of a position of trust as you could ever be in.
“They are going to live in a way which is a lot less pleasant in their twilight years.”
Jane Waugh, defending, said Tumilty started dipping into the resident’s accounts with the intention of paying back what she took, but events “snowballed” when her husband took ill.
Miss Waugh said: “She is ashamed in front of her friends, in front of her neighbours and in front of her family for what she has done.
“She knows now she will pay for her crimes by receiving a custodial sentence and that is something she wants to do.”