A Sunderland charity worker took thousands of pounds from vulnerable people he was employed to help.
Jesse Kemp, who worked at North East Disabilities Resource Centre, in Cork Street, helped himself to £5,690, South Tyneside Magistrates heard.
The 21-year-old had been tasked with accompanying people of varying physical and mental disabilities to banks and cash points, the court was told.
Prosecutor James Palmer said: “The defendant was employed at North East Disabilities Resource Centre as an administration officer.
“It’s a charity which assists people with physical and learning disabilities with their day-to-day activities to keep them as independent as possible.
“One of the services that the charity deals with is the finances of the people it assists, where staff will take clients to their banks or to cash machines and help them deal with their finances, to have money for themselves.
He stole almost £6,000 of money these people couldn’t afford to lose and it’s had a devastating effect on themMichael Robinson, defending
“The charity stores their bank cards, along with their bank details and PIN numbers.
“The general manager noticed some suspicious transactions relating to petty cash and paperwork.
“There was also unaccounted for cash found in the safe.
“A full audit was carried out, which included checks on clients’ accounts.
“There was a meeting with the staff and this defendant made full admissions.”
It was found that one vulnerable client, a woman, had lost £900, while a man with learning disabilities who is frightened to leave his own home, lost £2,320.
A further service user, who is in a wheelchair after breaking his hip and depends on carers for all his needs, had £2,470 taken from his account.
The court heard the man has extremely limited mobility and depends on the charity to assist him.
Mr Palmer said: “Police were called and the defendant made full admissions that he had used the bank cards at various cash points around Sunderland.
“Mr Kemp had clear responsibility for safeguarding the finances of these vulnerable people.
“These are very, very high culpability offences.
“He stole almost £6,000 of money these people couldn’t afford to lose and it’s had a devastating effect on them.
“It has also affected their confidence as well, having put their trust in someone to manage their finances.”
Kemp, of Lumley Street, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by abuse of position.
Michael Robinson, defending, said: “It was sophisticated only in that he took cards that didn’t belong to him.
“He breached their trust by using their PINs and accessing their money.
“Yes, the people he is dealing with are vulnerable individuals.
“But this is nothing to do with vulnerability.
“If he had stolen from an 18-year-old cage fighter it would have been the same thing because they have left the card with him.
“The breach of trust is how you commit the offence.”
Mr Robinson said he sought to put forward none of the usual excuses for committing offences.
He added: “He has no mental health issues, doesn’t abuse alcohol, doesn’t abuse drugs.
“The explanation for this is that there was an opportunity and he took it.”
Kemp was sentenced to 32 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 150 hours’ unpaid work to be completed in the next 12 months. He was also told to pay £85 costs and £115 surcharge.
No compensation was awarded as this is being recovered through other methods.