A CARER, who fraudulently withdrew almost £46,000 from the bank accounts of two of her elderly patients by using their cash cards, has been jailed for two years.
Fifty-four year old Margo Alongi, was told by Sheriff Fiona Tait at Edinburgh Sheriff Court today: “ The nature of these offences and the sums which were involved in defrauding two elderly people, each of whom was vulnerable for different reasons and you were entrusted with their care, means I am not persuaded there is an alternative to a custodial sentence”.
Alongi of Clayknowes Drive, Musselburgh, was found guilty at the end of a 10 day trial last month of defrauding 68-year old Roy Scott of £2,350 and 78-year old Elizabeth Lynch of £43,600 between May 2010 and January 2014. She denied that having been given her clients’ bank cards so she could make small monitory transactions and withdrawals for their sole benefit, she made various withdrawals, keeping the money for herself. Both her victims, who lived in Musselburgh, are now deceased.
Police investigations began when Ms Lynch died and her niece, Lynn Harrison, as her executor, studied her bank statements. She found that £2900 had been withdrawn in the previous three months. Ms Harrison studied all her aunt’s bank statements for the last seven years and as a result of what she saw, contacted the police. Ms Harrison said her aunt had told her and her mother that Margo Alongi had said it would be a good idea for her to get a cash card.
When Roy Scott was questioned by police he told them he had asked his carers to get him £20-£30 for food and cigarettes and no more than that. Carers were required to produce receipts for any purchases for Mr Scott, have him sign for it and lodge it with their employers. Mr Scott told the police that Alongi was the only carer he had given his bank card to.
In his evidence at the trial, Detective Constable John Fortune said Alongi had produced a personal diary which, she claimed, recorded all the money transactions relating to Mr Scott and they had been signed by him as “Roy S” or “Roy Scott”. The officer said Mr Scott told him: “I never requested these withdrawals and the signature is definitely not mine”. Two handwriting experts, who examined the diary, declared that the signatures were different from Mr Scott’s signatures on statements he had given to the police and there was no evidence that he was responsible for the signatures.
Defence solicitor, Emma Templeton, told the court that the case had had a devastating effect on her client’s family. She had five daughters, aged between 28 and 18 and they had suffered aggression and hostility in the community since the case came to court and had been targeted with on-line abuse on social media.
Alongi’s 78-year old mother, she said, was not in good health and it was deteriorating rapidly because of the case. She relied heavily on Alongi, her only daughter, to get her to and from hospital.
Ms Templeton had presented the court with a number of references in support of Alongi from other members of the community, which, she said, had not been sought by the family. She added that Alongi had no previous convictions and had never come to the attention of the police or courts before.
Also, she said, because of the character of the offence, her client would be a vulnerable individual in the prison community. She asked for a community-based disposal.
Lynn Harrison and her mother, 86-year old Mrs Jessie Wallace, the sister of Ms Lynch, along with a large number of family and friends, were in court for the sentencing. As they left, Ms Harrison said the family were delighted that justice had been done and that it would serve as a deterrent for others in Alongi’s position.