VULNERABLE adults with severe learning difficulties were left defenceless against an £18,000 ‘heinous’ fraud.
Senior carer Natalie Winter, 31, was trusted with managing their finances, including making cash withdrawals.
It was a heinous crime against vulnerable members of societyDetective Constable Debbie Baron
But she abused her position, siphoning thousands over 18 months and spending three weeks in Thailand.
The four victims, aged 45 to 67, were in a charity’s assisted living accommodation in Portsmouth and Fareham.
Prosecutor Daniel Sawyer said: ‘They all have learning difficulties, two completely incapable in dealing with their finances and two capable of doing it with some assistance. Three out of the four had other issues, in one case severe autism, and one case Down’s Syndrome.
‘All were vulnerable, cared for by Miss Winter.’
The court heard their bank cards were stored in a safe in their homes. Carers were able to withdraw cash for them but had to sign for it in a book.
As a senior carer Winter did not have to get approval.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard the charity’s procedures have been changed and it paid the four their cash.
Mr Sawyer added: ‘All (victims) are described as being very distressed.. traumatised and emotional. It’s clearly had an effect on them.’
Winter’s crimes only came to light when one of the homes went over budget in staffing costs. An audit found Winter had been claiming for more time than she worked.
Bosses ordered all of her client’s finances to be checked and her crime was revealed.
Simon Moger, mitigating for Winter, of Havant Road, Farlington, said she had given money to her partner.
He said: ‘The victims were about as vulnerable as one could imagine.’
Mr Moger added bailiffs were coming to Winter’s home due to her gambling and drug addict partner who was ‘controlling’ of her.
Sentencing, Recorder John Trevaskis said: ‘You will realise that your conviction for these offences is going to have a significant impact on your future employment.’
He imposed a two-year jail term suspended for two years and 240 hours unpaid work.
Detective Constable Debbie Baron praised the charity for its assistance. Outside court she said: ‘It was a heinous crime against vulnerable members of society.’
Det Con Barron added: ‘She didn’t show any remorse all the way through.’
Winter, who has no previous convictions, admitted four counts of fraud, relating to taking £12,425, £3,850, £330 and £1,950 from the victims.
She admitted a fifth fraud of £876.71 against the charity.