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gran theft oz-go Mum who stole £100k from her own granny to fund luxury holidays avoids jail term

Andrea Lee from Meadow Drive in Antrim made withdrawals of £104,000 from her grandmother's bank account after she'd been entrusted to have power of attorney of her estate

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Andrea Lee stole £104k from her granny

Andrea Lee stole £104k from her granny

Andrea Lee stole £104k from her granny

A woman who swindled more than £100,000 from her own granny to go on luxury holidays has avoided going to jail by the skin of her teeth.

Andrea Lee from Meadow Drive in Antrim made withdrawals of £104,000 from her grandmother's bank account after she'd been entrusted to have power of attorney of her estate.

But she received only a suspended prison sentence after a judge took into consideration her daughter's medical problems.

In an unprecedented move, the judge also read the riot act to Lee's husband - claiming he was "every bit as guilty" - even though he was not charged with any criminal offence.

It emerged he had even written a letter of apology to the court.

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Andrea Lee said she was happy to talk with reporter Steven Moore

Andrea Lee said she was happy to talk with reporter Steven Moore

Andrea Lee said she was happy to talk with reporter Steven Moore

 

Lee's victim - highly respected doctor Patricia Hobbs - has since passed away but before she died Lee travelled round the world with her cash.

Though she's since closed her Facebook account, her page, was full of happy pictures to places like Spain and included a family trip-of-a-lifetime to Australia.

The 45-year-old looked pretty pleased with herself as we watched her arrive at a restaurant close to her home.

Beaming from ear-to-ear, Lee appears to at least appreciate just how lucky she is not to be behind bars.

But her face fell when we asked her to explain why she had fleeced the grandmother who had put her trust in her.

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Andrea Lee on a trip to Australia funded by stealing from her gran

Andrea Lee on a trip to Australia funded by stealing from her gran

Andrea Lee on a trip to Australia funded by stealing from her gran

 

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Ushering away one of her children, she told us: "I haven't told the kids - for obvious reasons."

Lee told us she "appreciated the opportunity" we were giving her to explain her side of the story.

And she added that a report in a paper which appeared when she pleaded guilty to fraud had been "very sensational" the way it had been written.

"Thanks for coming to give me a chance to give my side," she said. "I'll need to speak to my solicitor and husband before I make a comment, but I really appreciate the opportunity."

Despite taking our number Andrea Lee did not call us back.

At Antrim Crown Court last week Judge Patricia Smyth said while the fraudster's abuse of her power of attorney deserved a prison sentence, her daughter's medical problems were such they made the case exceptional, so she suspended the two-year jail sentence for a year.

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Andrea Lee on holiday

Andrea Lee on holiday

Andrea Lee on holiday

 

"I trust that you will never be before a court again and the loss of your reputation and good name will cause more damage than any sentence the court can pass," said the judge.

While it was Lee standing before the court facing a charge of fraud by abuse of position, her husband also received a dressing down from the judge who told Lee that "in truth, your husband is every bit as guilty as you are for what happened".

Judge Smyth said while it was "to his credit" that he had written a letter to the court taking full responsibility and "expressing his shame," he was part of the "deluded thinking that you deserved this money to fund holidays".

"He encouraged you and benefited from this fraud as much as you did...even though legally he cannot be punished," said the judge.

In April, Lee confessed to a single count of committing fraud by abusing the position of trust she held in that on dates between March 13, 2017 and November 13, 2018 she dishonestly "made withdrawals from the bank accounts of Patricia Hobbs for your own personal use and which were not for her benefit, with the intention, by means of the abuse of that position to make a gain for yourself or another, or to cause loss to Patricia Hobbs, or to expose Patricia Hobbs to a risk of a loss."

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Andrea Lee

Andrea Lee

Andrea Lee

 

The court heard that in January 2017 Lee was granted power of attorney to cover the financial affairs of her elderly grandmother Dr Hobbs, giving her "unfettered access to her grandmother's bank accounts".

"During the period of March 2017-November 2018 the defendant made a large number of cash withdrawals from her grandmother's bank account and transferred large amounts of Dr Hobbs' savings into her own bank account," said the judge.

Lee swindled £104,000 from the bank accounts of Dr Hobbs who died in a care home last December aged 92.

Arrested and interviewed, Lee admitted spending the money but claimed it was spent in accordance with Dr Hobbs' wishes, a stance she abandoned by admitting her guilt.

Judge Smyth said two important factors were that Dr Hobbs "was unaware" of her granddaughter's fraud and also that the other beneficiaries "will not lose out".

A previous hearing was told Lee had been in contact with solicitors in England to make sure her entitlement in the will was assigned to the other beneficiaries.

The power of attorney, said the judge, "is an enormously responsible role" and it was an aggravating factor that Lee had breached the trust which had been placed in her but in mitigation she had a clear record and had entered a guilty plea.

She revealed that having "taken a step back and looked at the situation," it appeared to her that Lee was "under pressure of raising a family and holding down a demanding job," juggling caring responsibilities for both her sister and her grandmother when she used "easy access to money in an attempt to make life more bearable".

Judge Smyth said she had also received a medical report regarding Lee's daughter which she was not going to make public but which was such that "I'm required by law to take into account the impact of a custodial sentence on your child given her particular vulnerabilities".

She told Lee that in cases where there's a breach of trust, particularly when the fraud is committed over a significant period of time and a substantial amount of money is taken, "imprisonment is inevitable except in exceptional circumstances".

Imposing the suspended sentence, Judge Smyth added: "That brings this whole sorry matter to an end."

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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