A care worker has been spared jail after stealing £17,000 from vulnerable people she was supposed to be looking after.
Debra Isherwood of Ridley Avenue, Hollycarrside, Sunderland, took the money from four different victims who all suffered from learning difficulties and were not able to take control of their own finances.
The offences took place between June 2008 to August 2014, when she worked as a residential officer for a private care company.
Jolyan Perks, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court that one of the victims found a large number of discrepancies in his accounts and these were traced back to Isherwood.
An audit was immediately carried out, which revealed the 48-year-old carer as a serial offender who had carried out her crimes over a period of around six years.
At an earlier hearing Isherwood pleaded guilty to four different counts of theft.
Mr Perks said: "The complainants were all vulnerable and so it was a targeted and prolonged offence. They all suffered from learning difficulties and some could not take care of their own finances."
In a victim statement, one of the care users said: "I have been told that Debra took money from my account. I trusted her. She has stolen a lot from me."
The court also heard that the victim wanted Isherwood to spend time in prison.
Peter Walsh, defending, told the court how Isherwood has a bank account containing £9780, which she is ready to use to pay the victims back.
In mitigation he said: "She said that she will repay the money to the victims - we have seen the proof on her bank statement.
"She has been truthful through all of the proceedings, she entered a guilty plea - there was no evidence of her signing for the money but she admitted
this and felt it important to mention.
"She is of previously good character and she has never committed an offence or been cautioned before this.
"She worked for the company for 12 years and would not have been able to have this profession if she was not of good character."
Talking to Isherwood, who was crying in the dock, Mr Recorder Duncan Smith said: "You have no doubt that you have to pay the money back.
"Your previous record is exemplary and I have no doubt that I will not see you in a court room again.
"You are remorseful for what you have done and you did it because you felt like you owed somebody - which is a big mitigating feature."
He handed her a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for two years.
She was also ordered to carry out 180 hours unpaid work and 40 hours of rehabilitation.
Recorder Smith added: "You are a hard worker, I'm sure that you will put your back into the unpaid work."