A former serviceman had to have a ‘pauper’s funeral’ after the boss of the care home where he was living stole his life savings to pay for a luxury foreign holiday.
The old man died in poverty as Melanie Oliver stole tens of thousands of pounds from residents at the River Meadows care home in Kineton to fund her extravagant lifestyle.
Oliver, aged 49, of Kingsley Road, Bishops Tachbrook, was jailed for three years after she pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to six charges of theft.
Prosecutor Walter Bealby explained that five of the charges involved thefts totalling almost £47,000 from residents at the home, while the final offence was the theft of £500 from her employers, Prime Life Ltd.
River Meadows, a care home for up to 41 elderly people, specialising in those with dementia, is in Warwick Road, Kineton, a village which has just one ATM machine.
Oliver, who had been the manager of the home since 2004, began stealing from the residents, who because of their conditions did not have control of their own bank cards, in 2011 and continued until January last year.
Matters began to unravel for Oliver after Prime Life Ltd decided to give River Meadows more independence, with control of its own bank account for which Oliver was responsible.
To assist and advise her, an internal finance officer from the company visited the home on three occasions in 2014, twice following allegations of money going missing.
When the theft of £38,000 from one old man came to light it emerged that money had been stolen from his account over an 11-month period from November 2011 using his bank card.
When she was spoken to by the police, Oliver identified another member of staff who had since retired as being a suspect.
But further investigations by officers from Warwickshire Police’s newly-formed Adults at Risk Unit revealed that the card had been used at various shops including Argos, Boozebusters and Sainsburys, as well as at cash machines.
One purchase was for a £85 Pandora bracelet and charm, and it was confirmed that the elderly resident had not purchased jewellery for himself, and had no family to buy for.
And detailed probing by the officers in what was one of the unit’s first cases showed that at the time the bracelet was bought, rewards points were credited to Oliver’s store privilege card – and no money went missing on dates when she was on holiday.
Another victim, a 90-year-old ex-serviceman, died in a state of distress, having discovered what had happened to his life savings, although it was not suggested that had led to his death.
Because he was left almost penniless by Oliver’s theft of £7,050 from his account in a total of 13 cash withdrawals from the HSBC cash machine in Kineton, he had to have a pauper’s funeral.
The month before he died in November 2014, Oliver and her husband had gone on an all-inclusive holiday to Israel, although there was no sign of any payment from her Santander account.
And Mr Bealby pointed out that when the police later examined Oliver’s computer, they found she had made a number of searches along the lines of whether all ATM machines have CCTV cameras and whether the police can find who has used a cashpoint.
At her home when she was arrested officers found brand-new bikes, a new cooker and other electrical appliances, new toys for her grandchild, and other examples of extravagant spending.
During her theft spree she also stole £800 from another resident in nine transactions in 2014; £200 she had been given by the daughter of a 90-year-old woman which should have been paid into her mother’s account; £300 which she should have paid into another resident’s account; and £500 from Prime Life.
Oliver’s total benefit from her dishonesty was assessed as £47,410 – but an investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act showed she had no assets, so Judge Richard Griffith-Jones made a confiscation order for a nominal £1.
Justin Jarmola, defending, conceded: “She is obviously going to lose her liberty, which will have significant impact on her family, and particularly on her grandchild who she cares for.
“She is totally ashamed and disgusted with herself that she let people down she was meant to care for.
“She has said herself: ‘I know it’s only right for me to pay for what I’ve done.’”
Jailing Oliver, Judge Griffith-Jones told her: “You had the responsibility for a number of people who could not really look after themselves, and the public and their families trusted them to your care.
“But you preyed upon them financially. To you they were a source of money over an extended period of time.
“You stole to live an extravagant lifestyle which included holidays abroad, electrical items, jewellery and presents for your family, which were not really presents from you but gave the impression of generosity.
“Your offences were carefully crafted, and you used your intelligence to identify vulnerable people and researched how to get away with it.
“Clever, greedy and dishonest, you stole from the most vulnerable of people, bringing terrible unhappiness to one man in the last days of his life.
“This was not only a gross breach of trust, but when you were eventually confronted, you placed suspicion on a wholly innocent person to deflect culpability from yourself.”
After the hearing Dc Nicky Burley, from the Adults at Risk Unit, said: “This case shows the extensive lengths we will go to to seek justice for the most vulnerable, those people who don’t really have a voice in society.”