Greedy Kings Hill woman Linda Cooper jailed after plundering £55k from dementia-sufferer father
A woman who plundered her dementia-sufferer father's bank account to spend thousands of pounds on clothes, restaurants and holidays has been jailed for a year.
A judge told Linda Cooper he could not suspend her prison sentence as her crime was a "gross breach of trust".
There were gasps from the public gallery as the 50-year-old, who is the sole registered carer for her schizophrenic son, heard her fate.
The case was heard at Maidstone Crown Court
Cooper, of Durello Avenue, Kings Hill, West Malling, was said to have "rapidly depleted" Raymond Bartholomew's bank account in the sum of £55,784 between 2007 and 2012.
Maidstone Crown Court heard she had been put in charge of the elderly man's financial affairs in agreement with her mother and two sisters.
Prosecutor Bridget Todd said Cooper's name was added to her father's bank account and the understanding was she would use the retired railway worker's money to pay for his care costs and fees, as well as clothing, personal items and taking him out for meals. She also had use of his car.
"You took those items dishonestly when you were trusted by the entire family to look after his assets..." - Judge Charles Byers
"She was only to use her father's bank account in his best interests and any purchases were to be associated with his care," said Miss Todd.
"It was not to use the money for her own personal gain and she was fully aware of this."
Mr Bartholomew had suffered with mental health issues since his 20s, the court heard.
Memory problems led to him becoming a resident at Darent House Hospital, in Sevenoaks, in 2003 and then the Betsy Clara Nursing Home, in Maidstone, in 2008.
Although Cooper used her father's money for everyday living expenses, she also booked flights for herself to the US.
"They were not for her father's benefit and she was not acting in his interests," said Miss Todd. "The funds were being depleted in a fairly rapid rate."
Judge Charles Byers at Maidstone Crown Court
The court also heard that as well as "dipping into" Mr Bartholomew's money, Cooper also failed to inform Kent County Council her father had more than £20,000 worth of premium bonds.
This would have affected the family's contributions to the costs of his care.
Mr Bartholomew, who has since died, had income from state and work-related pensions, but by May 2011 he had little more than £100 in his account.
The following month, Cooper contacted National Savings and Investments, claiming her father wished to sell his bonds and she enclosed what she purported to be a power of attorney document.
However, although Cooper transferred £5,000 from the sale into her father's account, the court heard she kept the bulk of it in her own account.
Miss Todd said what remained of his capital in 2012 was not transferred back into his account until after Cooper's first interview with police.
One of her sisters later told officers she did not even know their father had premium bonds, and Cooper "always made excuses" when asked to discuss their father's money.
Cooper admitted fraud by failing to notify KCC that Mr Bartholomew's capital assets exceeded a threshold of £22,250 between July 2008 and July 2012.
She also admitted fraud in that she misused a false document when purporting to have power of attorney in order to gain financial assets between January 2007 and December 2012.
The court was told Cooper accepted she had taken money from her father, but it was closer to £35,000.
Jailing Cooper, Judge Charles Byers said she had committed a "very mean" offence - which was effectively stealing from the whole family.
"She doesn't resile from the fact she did things she should not have done..." - Mary Jacobson, defending
But he added Cooper had initially taken over managing her father's money "with the best of motives" and that her love and care for him did not diminish.
"But what was plain is that you took those items dishonestly when you were trusted by the entire family to look after his assets," he said.
Mary Jacobson, defending, said Cooper became responsible for her father's finances with the "absolute best of motives", but struggled with the pressure of being the sole carer for both her father and her son.
"She doesn't resile from the fact she did things she should not have done," she added.
"She started dipping into his account for her own personal use, with the caviat that some expenditure was on him."
Miss Jacobson also told the court that had Cooper informed KCC of the bonds once she was aware of them, the family would have been over the entitlement threshold by just £2,500.
The court heard Cooper is now estranged from her siblings and was neither told when their father was dying, nor that his ashes had been scattered.
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