A 46-year-old woman who pleaded guilty to stealing more than €45,000 from an elderly woman with dementia for whom she was acting as a carer has been jailed for two and a half years.
Catherine Gregg of The Cottage, Ballinaclashet, Belgooly, Co Cork previously pleaded guilty to 17 different theft charges. Ms Gregg left just eighty cents in the bank account of the injured party who is now in a care home.
Cork Circuit Criminal Court heard that the offences occurred on various dates from September 1st, 2018 to September 30th, 2021. A total of €45,773.93 was stolen from the vulnerable woman.
Det Garda Hugh Byrne told Judge Colin Daly that Ms Gregg had been hired by the adult children of an elderly couple in Kinsale, Co Cork.
The children of the couple lived overseas and brought in extra help for their parents. Assistance was needed as their father broke his leg in a fall and their mother deteriorated with dementia.
Ms Gregg was able to access the couple’s Bank of Ireland debit card to pay for items such as groceries. Her activity on this card was monitored by one of the couple’s adult children. Nothing untoward occurred in relation to this account.
When the man Ms Gregg cared for died in mid 2019 his wife moved to a care home in the UK to be near her daughter. The house was cleared out to go on the market and documents found on site were looked at by a solicitor employed by the family.
The solicitor found an Ulster bank account in the name of the mother of his clients which they did not know existed. The pension of the woman was paid in this account.
It emerged that substantial sums of money had been withdrawn from the account even though the elderly woman was mentally and physically unable to carry out such transactions.
This raised suspicions and matter was reported to gardaí. Gardai launched an investigation and determined that 103 payments had been paid in electronic transfers to Gregg’s bank account. One of the transactions was as large as €3500. Ms Gregg had spent the monies on her own personal grocery shopping, refuse charges and electricity bills.
Det Garda Byrne said Ms Gregg had also made 16 ATM withdrawals from the account. On one occasion she had taken out €4000 to pay for tack for a pony. The family of the injured party were at a loss of over €45,000 arising out of the actions of Ms Gregg the court was told.
The offending behaviour of Ms Gregg occurred within two months of the death of the elderly man who had been charge of the finances in the house. It continued until January of last year. Dt Garda Byrne said by the time Gregg was finished there was just 80 cent in the Ulster Bank account.
The court heard that Ms Gregg made full admissions when she was arrested in connection with the case. She had a number of previous convictions for theft from over twenty years ago when she stole small sums of money from people she shared a house with.
She also stole a small amount money when she was a babysitter.
Dt Garda Byrne was cross examined by defence barrister Paula McCarthy. He agreed that Gregg was contrite. He readily accepted that she was under the care of a doctor for anxiety.
Ms McCarthy, BL, said her client was a single mother who was also caring for an elderly parent with dementia.
“She (Gregg) is under the care of a GP and her medical report shows that she has suffered from anxiety and depression, but she has met these charges fairly, making admissions and coming forward on a signed plea of guilty which has saved the state a trial which could have proven complex.
“She expresses her remorse and her shame for her actions. I am instructed she would have liked to repay the money, but she is not in a financial position to bring the money before the court. She expresses her full, unequivocal apology to the family, for whatever that is worth.”
Judge Daly said that there was clearly an element of premeditation in the case.
“She (Gregg) deprived an elderly couple – certainly an elderly woman – of a significant amount of money – money this woman may yet need. The breach of trust to the entire family who entrusted the care of their mother to the accused was extreme.
“She took advantage of an elderly woman at the most exceptionally and extremely vulnerable time of her life,” he said, adding the crime involved a high level of culpability and caused serious harm in that it deprived the woman of funds for her future care in a nursing home.
“There was an enormous breach of trust, and she comes before the court with previous convictions for similar offences. They may have been historical, but they showed a similar lack of regard and abuse of trust that others might place in her and that is an aggravating factor.
“She is a single mother caring for her daughter and caring for her own father who has dementia. The irony of this case – where she is now going to have to place her trust in somebody else to look after her father – is not lost on this court,” he said.
He noted that Gregg had apologised for her actions. A victim impact statement was presented to Judge Daly. However, it was not read out in court.
Judge Daly jailed Ms Gregg for three years. However, he suspended the last six months of her sentence. He agreed to a request from the defence to defer the sentence until January of next year to allow Gregg time to put arrangements in place for her father and daughter.