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Saturday 27 February 2021

Woman who stole elderly friend's bank card while visiting her in hospital jailed for four months

The woman stole more than €2,700 from the victim over three months.

Image: Sasko Lazarov via RollingNews.ie

A 65-YEAR-OLD woman who stole her elderly friend’s bank card while visiting her in hospital and stole more than €2,700 from the victim over three months has been jailed for four months.

In the months before the 90-year-old victim’s hospitalisation, Lynda Goldsmith began taking money from her bank account by getting cash back while she was buying groceries for her using her debit card.

She also took money from the woman’s purse which was in a drawer in the woman’s bedroom. It has never been determined how much cash Goldsmith stole from the woman’s purse but she told gardaí in interview that she thinks she stole “maybe about €400 or €500”.

Goldsmith had been friends with the woman for 18 months and brought her to church services and a church lunch every Friday in their local parish in Taney, Dundrum.

She also accompanied the woman to her local newsagents to buy chocolate and the Radio Times and other groceries.

On occasion the victim would be outside the shop in Goldsmith’s car while Goldsmith did the shopping for her.

Goldsmith of Broadford Park, Ballinteer, Dublin 16 pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to four charges of stealing cash and one of theft of an ATM card which were a representative sample of 31 thefts between 16 January 2019 and 4 April 2019.

The court heard that after she stole the woman’s card from her in hospital, Goldsmith accepted €70 from the woman’s son, which she claimed the woman owed her in petrol money for taking her to church services.

Goldsmith has a previous conviction for stealing from a woman’s purse while the victim was shopping in December 2015. She also received an adult caution for stealing €700 from a family while was working as a childminder in March and April 2007.

Judge Pauline Codd today noted that the total taken using the ATM card was in the region of €2,750 and that the total sum stolen from the woman’s handbag was unquantified.

She said it was significantly aggravating that Goldsmith stole from the victim while she was on her sick bed in hospital and the fact that she had memorised the woman’s PIN while watching her use it showed premeditation to steal from her.

The judge said Goldsmith had befriended an elderly lady and took advantage of her trust.

Judge Codd took into account in mitigation Goldsmith’s guilty plea, her admissions, ill health, remorse and personal circumstances. She noted Goldsmith had a history of depression and that she had suffered a loss of reputation through her own actions.

Judge Codd imposed an 18 month sentence and suspended the final 14 months. She said Goldsmith should undergo 14 months probation supervision and should not occupy any unsupervised role as a volunteer carer.

Victim impact statement

The victim’s son said in a victim impact statement that his mother no longer wears her engagement ring for fear it will be taken and often complains that her knitting and clothing have been stolen from her in the nursing home where she now lives. She sleeps with her handbag under her pillow.

He also stated that Goldsmith made a €2 transaction on his mother’s card in the hospital while his mother was lying there sick in bed.

The man concluded his statement by saying that his mother was “a vulnerable elderly woman simply looking for a friend” and said Goldsmith’s actions represented “theft of her security and trust”.

Detective Garda Barry Brennan told Gráinne O’Neill BL, prosecuting, that it was first noticed that money had been taken from the woman’s account when she was in hospital recovering from a fall and noticed that her bank card was missing.

Her son ultimately cancelled the bank card when he discovered a number of unauthorised transactions in her bank account.

Detective Garda Brennan said Goldsmith admitted in garda interview that she stole the cash because she felt her pension didn’t go very far and said “I thought it would be nice to have a bit of money”.

Additional evidence

Reading from a victim impact statement the woman’s son stated that the thefts “had a profound effect” on his mother and in her ability to feel secure and trust people.

The man said his mother saw Goldsmith as a friend and had been keen not to take advantage of the woman’s generosity. He said he believed that if Goldsmith had asked his mother if she could borrow money she would have helped her out.

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He said when gardaí asked her if there was anyone who could have access to her money and bank card and Goldsmith would have been the obvious suspect, his mother replied “Lynda would never do anything like that”.

The man noted that when he brought his mother shopping once a week they would always withdraw cash from her account so she could have it during the week for the church collection, her magazine and petrol money for Goldsmith.

He said his mother then started to think she was running out of money during the week. “It took some time to realise she had not run out if it, it had been stolen,” the man said.

Detective Garda Brennan agreed with Fiona Pekaar BL, defending, that her client made admissions during garda interview and accepted what she had done.

He accepted that she had written a letter of remorse and had offered to repay the family the money she stole, but the family have rejected the letter and the offer.

Detective Garda Brennan said he was aware that Goldsmith’s husband was ill at the time of her arrest and that he died from Covid-19 last May after he was hospitalised following a fall last Christmas.

Pekaar said her client, who suffers from depression and arthritis, has an enormous amount of shame for what she has done and the shame she has brought to her family.

Counsel said her client always had financial difficulties after her husband had to retire at 42 due to ill-health.

Pekaar said Goldsmith’s family were angry with her and although her son was in court to support her he is struggling to forgive for what she has done.

“At all times she accepted she should not have done this. She took advantage of the victim,” Peekar said.

About the author:

Sonya McLean and Fiona Ferguson

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