Three charities which lost out to the tune of more than £25,000 after a Leamington man abused his position as the attorney of an elderly widow’s finances are finally going to get the money.
And Zlatko Bogdanovic escaped being jailed after Warwick Crown Court was handed a bank cheque to cover what he had stolen.
Bogdanovic (62) of Brunswick Street, Leamington, at the time, had pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of a position of trust and a further charge of making false claims to obtain benefit.
After he had entered his pleas, sentencing was deferred to give him time to repay the £25,795 he had obtained from the account of widow Audrey Archbold.
According to her will the money was part of her estate that should have been going to the Cats Protection League, the RSPCA and Cancer Research following her death in 2015.
And at the resumed hearing, he was given a ten-month sentence suspended for 12 months, after his solicitor Sean Logan said he had a bank cheque for the full amount.
The court heard that Bogdanovic had come to know Mrs Archbold, who was born in 1926 and was widowed when she was just 20, in 1997 when she was 71, and they became close friends.
The following year a declaration of trust was made to deal with her Brunswick Street home which was to be held in trust for the ‘beneficial ownership’ of Bogdanovic, with Mrs Archbold retaining the right to live there for the rest of her life.
With them both living at the address, an arrangement was made that they would contribute equally to the household bills, although there was no indication that Bogdanovic did so.
And it was inconsistent with his claim when then applying for housing benefit that he was living there as a tenant.
In 2002 Mrs Archbold had named Bogdanovic as the executor of her will to deal with the remainder of her estate, and later the same month he was appointed as her attorney.
In that role Bogdanovic was to ‘deal with her estate in such a way as he saw fit, consistent with her best interests,’ and was entitled to out-of-pocket expenses but not to profit by it.
Bogdanovic was to look after her as her carer, and moved into the house in 2006 – and it was accepted there was no question that he did look after her.
But in 2010 her faculties began to deteriorate, and on Christmas Eve 2012 he became so concerned that he arranged for an emergency domiciliary visit by social services.
Following a period of assessment she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved into a residential home – and between then and her death in 2015, Bogdanovic treated her assets as his own.
She had a Post Office account into which her pension and DWP benefits were paid, and which were withdrawn very soon after they had gone in – and he also took out her work pension.
Bogdanovic withdrew at least £300 a month from the two accounts, obtaining a total of £25,795 over a 30-month period.
At the time he was on benefits, and made a false claim for housing benefit, on the basis that he was living there as a tenant, resulting in him receiving overpayments totalling £33,246.
Prosecutor Jamie Scott said that the money being repaid by the bankers draft was to be divided equally between the RSPCA, the Cats Protection league and Cancer Research.
But that could not be done straight away because there is to be a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act over the money Bogdanovic had received from his fraudulent benefit claims.
And in law, no financial orders can be made in a case until a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing is resolved.
Mr Scott suggested that the Court Service should hold the £25,795 in trust until then, and that the Department for Work and Pensions not be allowed to draw on any of it in compensation.
And Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “I will make that order to ensure the sum is held in trust until it can be paid in compensation.”
Mr Logan made the point: “This relationship was not quite as stark as the fraud would suggest. There was a great deal of devotion and care.”
Sentencing Bogdanovic, who now lives in Croatia, Judge de Bertodano said: “I made a deal with you that if you would pay back that amount, then I would suspend the appropriate sentence.
“It is an unusual case. This was, I accept, a genuine, caring relationship which went on for a number of years.”