The thefts were uncovered after the pensioner tried to use a bank card but it was declined.
While Judge Alistair Devlin handed a ten month prison sentence to Catherine Morgan at Antrim Crown Court, he told the 54-year-old fraudster it was “not without some hesitation” he was suspending the sentence for three years.
Outlining how Margaret Milliken had been “kind enough” to give Morgan as job as a house keeper and a carer, “she might have expected loyalty and fidelity but instead, you continually exploited the trust and confidence this this elderly and vulnerable lady had placed in you which simply emphasises the mean and appalling nature of this offending.”
“These offences,” declared the judge, “were on possible because of a gross breach of trust on your part.”
Morgan, from Altananam Park in Ballycastle, had entered guilty pleas to 13 counts of fraud by false representation, committed over a two month period between 19 March and 22 May 2018, by using the First Trust Bank card which belonged to Mrs Milliken.
Prosecuting counsel Suzanne Gallagher outlined how the thefts against Mrs Milliken, who sadly passed away last August aged 89, were uncovered in May 2018 when the pensioner tried to use a bank card but it was declined.
When her friend contacted the bank of her behalf, he “found out that Margaret’s account had approximately 40 fraudulent cash withdrawals at £500 or less per transaction, totalling approximately £18,000,” said Ms Gallagher.
Police enquiries established the card had been used at various ATMs in the coastal town with CCTV establishing that Morgan was responsible for the withdrawals.
The barrister told the court how cops were issued a warrant to search the fraudster’s home and they found almost £10,000 stashed in a coffee tin and in the thief’s bedroom.
If that wasn’t evidence enough, “a First Trust bank card in the name of M.MILLIKEN was seized from a black purse belonging to Catherine Marie Morgan in a kitchen cupboard in the address.”
Arrested and interviewed Morgan gave a prepared statement where she admitted the thefts and claimed “I am truly sorry to Margaret for all the harm that I have caused her.”
“I cannot offer any reasonable or justifiable explanation to try and explain why I done what I have done other than to say I am very unwell at present. I deeply regret my actions and I will attempt to repay all the money I have taken, back to Margaret,” claimed Morgan.
Ms Gallagher submitted there were numerous aggravating features to the nasty offences including the abuse of position of trust, the offending occurred over a period of two and a half months so was not a one-off or spontaneous action and Morgan has previous offences in the 90s for obtaining property by deception.
“It’s clear that these offences are unquestionably mean,” defence counsel Patrick Taylor conceded at the outset of his plea in mitigation, adding that Morgan is “terrified at the prospect of a custodial sentence.”
While he agreed there were aggravating features, “she accepted her guilt at the earliest opportunity and had expressed remorse,” said the barrister.
However Judge Devlin said there was “limited victim empathy” and he was scathing in his criticism of Morgan as she had “exploited the victim’s trust in you” and it was only because of her position of trust that she had been able to steal the pensioner’s bank card and PIN code.
He revealed that in the week before she was arrested, Morgan had paid daily visits to ATMs, lifting the maximum each time so in the space of just a week, she stole £3,500.
“On each of those occasions you had a renewed opportunity to think of the nature and the consequences of what you were doing but sadly, you nevertheless proceeded regardless, paying no heed to the likely distress to be caused to your employer,” Judge Devlin told her.
He said that according to probation reports “your offending was prompted by little more than envy and covetousness, that she would be able to buy whatever she wanted whereas you could not…and out of a desire for financial gain.”