Carer cons frail client in £4000 card scam

Stephanie Bittles fleeced her victim out of �4000. Picture: comp
Stephanie Bittles fleeced her victim out of �4000. Picture: comp
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A FRAIL elderly woman was scammed out of almost £4000 by a live-in carer in a ruthless con over five months.

Stephanie Bittles moved in with the woman in Pathhead to support her – but brutally betrayed her trust for her own financial gain.

The 27-year-old used the vulnerable woman’s existing bank card and took out a credit card in her name to order pizzas, buy clothes and pay off debts.

She also tried to book flights under her ill client’s name but was foiled when suspicious transactions were spotted on bank statements.

Bittles yesterday admitted forming the fraudulent scheme during an appearance at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

The court heard that the offences took place between April 1, 2013, and September 21, 2013, at the elderly woman’s Pathhead home.

Bittles told Tesco Bank that she was the client, managing to secure a Mastercard in her name and using it to buy a range of “goods and services” and to make loan payments.

Bittles also used her client’s existing bank card and name to set up a credit agreement with online clothing directory Freemans.

In total, Bittles defrauded her vulnerable client out of £3900 – and tried to cash in on a further £1255.34.

Fiscal depute Liz Paton said Bittles had access to the woman’s bank card to buy food and other items for the client.

Ms Paton said: “She admitted to the police that she was in a considerable amount of debt. She had taken out loans in September 2011 and 2012, she started to work for an agency in February 2013 and she was assigned to the elderly lady.

“There were suspicious looking payments coming out, and police were alerted.”

These included orders for Pizza Hut deliveries, and attempts made to buy flights in the name of the lady on the credit card.

Ms Paton added: “When the accused was interviewed on December 16, 2013, she made a full confession. She said she had agreed to the position of carer as she was in considerable debt and thought she could repay the stolen money before she was caught out.

“[The elderly lady’s] children have full power of attorney.”

Sheriff Frank Crowe called for background reports and deferred sentence on Bittles until next month.

Defence agent Nigel Bruce said Bittles, who now lives in Hamilton, had no previous convictions. He said: “She is doing her best to save up to 
repay the money.”

Pathhead resident Colin Grahame, of Tynewater community council, said he was shocked to hear about the case.

He said: “I’m horrified that it’s happened. It’s really tragic.

“I will be taking this up with our local policeman at the next meeting.”

Age Scotland urged anyone who has suspicions about carers to contact police.

A spokesman said: “Any crime committed by someone in a position of trust, especially a carer, should be taken with the utmost seriousness. However, it is worth noting that cases like this are thankfully rare.”

kaye.nicolson@edinburghnews.com