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Dublin: 7 °C Tuesday 18 December, 2018
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Former care worker acquitted of stealing over €43k from elderly woman

A jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court returned a verdict of not guilty on ten charges.

Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court
Image: Google Maps

A FORMER CARE worker who said she received cash loans from an elderly stroke victim in her care has been acquitted of stealing over €43,000 from the woman.

Sabrina O’Connor (37) of The Green, Dunboyne Castle, Dunboyne, Co Meath, had denied 13 counts of theft and one of deception in Dublin on dates between June 2010 and December 2011.

After just under six hours of deliberating, a jury at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court returned a verdict of not guilty on ten charges. The jury were unable to reach verdicts on three counts and she was remanded on continuing bail to 9 July next to deal with these charges.

Judge Karen O’Connor told the accused, who began crying after the verdict was read out, that she had not behaved in an admirable fashion with respect to the company procedures in place for care workers and clients.

During the trial, the accused agreed that she knew it was against her work policy and procedures to accept money from a client.

“It was wrong for me to accept it. I was under pressure. I didn’t make the right decision,” O’Connor said.

Allegations

The State had alleged that O’Connor had access to certain of the woman’s documents and information, and stole from the woman’s bank account while she worked as her carer.

The largest single sum allegedly stolen was €15,000, which the State claimed O’Connor used to secure an option to purchase or rent a house.

O’Connor had previously told the jury that she had tried to pay this €15,000 back to the complainant but was told the cash was “in custody”. Today, Judge O’Connor ordered that this sum be paid over to the complainant.

It was further alleged that O’Connor stole a bank draft for €8,500 from the woman to buy a Land Rover vehicle.

The court also heard evidence that O’Connor used 11 cheques to take money from the woman’s account and then spent the money for her own benefit. The cheques were for amounts ranging between €1,000 and €2,500 and came to a total of €20,100.

Elderly woman

The elderly woman took the stand and said that after she suffered a stroke, she had other people take money out of her bank account for her. She said O’Connor, who was then her carer, mostly had access to this account.

She said O’Connor bought food for her using bank cards attached to the account, and would also pay bills for her using cheques.

In her evidence, O’Connor testified that the woman had gifted her cash to buy a vehicle and had also lent her money towards a deposit on a house. O’Connor said that the woman “wanted to help her out with transport” when she learned that O’Connor no longer had transport available to her.

O’Connor said the woman had insisted and had suggested she would give her €10,000 for a car.

“She told me to get something and pick it out and she would pay for it,” said O’Connor.

“My understanding was that it was a gift. I told her I would pay it back,” O’Connor said but confirmed that she has not paid the woman back.

She said the woman had also loaned her €15,000 to put down as a deposit on a house because “she wanted to help me out with my family”.

O’Connor said the deal was that she would give the money back to the woman in two years, although she agreed that the money had not been repaid.

O’Connor told her counsel that there were also times when the woman told her she needed money and O’Connor would withdraw cash from her own account for her. The woman would then write her a cheque for the money and the accused would lodge it in her own account.

She agreed that this was “very unusual”. She told counsel for the State that she didn’t tell her employers that she had done this because she was afraid of losing her job. O’Connor told the jury the woman was “very different to any other client”.

“She was very much in control of everything. She was very strong-minded. She made all her own decisions. She spent a lot money. She gave a lot of money anyway,” O’Connor said.

Additional evidence

The complainant said she kept her chequebook in an unlocked drawer in her house. She said she would put her initials only on the cheque as she wasn’t able to write out other details.

When shown a bank draft and withdrawal slip for €15,000 from her account, the woman confirmed her initials on both documents but said she had no recollection of withdrawing that amount or of giving O’Connor permission to do so.

She said she did not tell O’Connor she could have the amount to purchase an option to buy or rent a house in Malahide.

The woman also agreed that her initials were on a bank draft setting out a withdrawal of €8,500, but said she did not tell O’Connor that she could use this amount to buy a motor vehicle.

The woman told counsel she had agreed to lend O’Connor the money after the accused asked her for the sum to have an operation on her leg. The complainant said she didn’t know if O’Connor had had the operation and that “no way” had she been paid back by the accused.

Similarly, the woman confirmed that her initials were on the 11 cheques allegedly stolen from her account, but said she had “no recollection” of writing those cheques or giving O’Connor permission to do so.

The court heard that the woman told gardaí she was “very annoyed” that her money was gone.

She also denied that a female friend had in any way assisted her memory when she was making her statement to gardaí regarding the alleged thefts.

Comments are closed as legal proceedings are ongoing. 

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Sonya McLean and Jessica Magee

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