Sunderland carer ‘frittered away’ £47k of cousin’s life savings and left her with just 21 PENCE in the bank

A carer who "frittered away" £47,000 of her cousin's life savings and left her with just 21p in the bank has been put behind bars.

By Karon Kelly
Tuesday, 14th June 2022, 5:45 pm

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Karen Devonport took out 44 loans, which she said were to pay for a string of expenses including a deposit for a New York trip, her daughter's wedding and a baby shower.

The 58-year-old borrowed the money on the understanding she was waiting for a £65,000 divorce settlement which she would use to pay it all back.

But Newcastle Crown Court heard Devonport had already received the divorce pay-out a year earlier, had spent it and knew she had no money to pay back the cash she was borrowing.

The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

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After spending her own £65,000 divorce settlement, Devonport used the money she was borrowing to pay for meals out and treats for friends because she was "lonely".

The court heard the cruel con, which went on for 20 months, caused so much stress to the victim that her daughter feared she might be suffering from dementia and her husband had to leave his job to support her.

Prosecutor Alec Burns told the court Devonport and her cousin had been like "like sisters" before the fraud.

Mr Burns said it was in April 2019 when Devonport had first asked to borrow cash and told the court: "She asked for £8,000 for her daughter's wedding but as it happens someone else had already paid for the wedding

"The defendant told her she was due a divorce settlement of £65,000 but in the near future and she would pay her back from that but as it turned out, she hadalready had that money for a year and had already spent it."

The court heard over a 20 month period Devonport asked for regular handouts, including hundreds of pounds at a time to pay for a log cabin, £3,000 to help set up a nail bar, £2,000 for a wedding dress, £700 for bridesmaids dresses, £1,000 for a wedding photographer, money for solicitor's bills, insurance fees and furniture.

In a victim statement, which was read out in court, the victim said the £47,000 was her and her husband's life savings and added: "Karen would tell me she was desperate, she needed the money and promised to pay me back once she received her divorce settlement.

"I had no reason not to believe Karen or the reasons she needed the money.

"I believed the money would be returned. I had no reason not to believe or trust her.

"I didn't even tell my husband but as time went on I began feeling something wasn't right."

She said the stress of keeping the "secret" about the loans affected her health and she added: "My daughter actually thought I was suffering from dementia.

"I couldn't concentrate."

The woman said her husband left his job to support her and she is still undergoing medical tests.

She said it was only after a meeting with Devonport's ex husband that she found out the truth for certain and realised the extent of the betrayal.

She said: "I met him and he told me she had received the financial settlement of around £65,000. She had received this money before she started asking me for money.

"I was devastated.

"Karen has taken all of my life savings. I was left with 21p in my building society account.

"My husband and I had been saving since we got married in 1984."

Devonport, of Benfleet Avenue, Sunderland, admitted fraud of £47,074.

Judge Christopher Prince sentenced her to 28 months behind bars.

The judge told her: "It was an extraordinarily mean offence committed against an extremely close member of your family, your cousin. You are close in age,grew up together, you were like sisters.

"You have stolen all of her and her husband's life savings by the commission of the offence.

"You promised her you were still waiting for a divorce settlement, that was a complete lie, you knew full well you had spent that money already.

"You also knew there was absolutely no prospect of you paying back the sums of money you were obtaining."

Judge Prince added: "You were frittering away money, spending it on taking people out for amusement."

Susan Hirst, defending, said Devonport has never been in trouble before and spent years working in a factory before she became a carer.

Miss Hirst said: "She is thoroughly ashamed of her own behaviour and the devastation she knows she has caused to her cousin.

"She has betrayed one of the people she has been closest to in her life. Her remorse is deeply felt and genuine."

The court heard Devonport had been paying back £500 per month to her cousin and had so far repaid £3,000.

Miss Hirst said Devonport had been married for 37 years and "lost her identity" during the divorce.

Miss Hirst said Devonport became "lonely and isolated", had a breakdown and started inviting her friends out to meals and events, which she would pay for so she could secure their attendance.

Miss Hirst said Devonport also started using cannabis to cope.