Aunt must repay £57,000

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The Independent Online

A woman who spent her nephew's inheritance during a five-year shopping spree was ordered to repay him £56,982.67 after a proceeds of crime hearing at Bolton Crown Court yesterday.

Rhona Haslam, 51, from Bolton, ran into financial difficulties after getting divorced and plundered the trust fund bequeathed to Robert Simpson.



Haslam was branded "callous and cruel" by the judge at Bolton Crown Court who jailed her for three years in July.



Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said Haslam was ordered to repay £56,982.67 at a proceeds of crime hearing at the same court today.



She was found out after the victim's mother contacted the fund manager and discovered its value had shrunk to just £293.17.



It is estimated the fund's value would have exceeded £79,000 if it had matured.



Mr Simpson, 20, a council play worker, said his aunt's deception "made me feel physically sick".



He had planned to use his father's legacy as a deposit for a house.



Robert Keith Simpson died aged 41 when his son was four, and appointed Haslam, his sister, as a joint trustee of the fund.



He also bequeathed her his house, which she later sold.



Haslam admitted forgery, obtaining property by deception, and three counts of obtaining money transfers by deception between February 1998 and June 2003.



A police investigation revealed that Haslam forged her co-trustee's signature to obtain the money and also obtained money transfers to bogus accounts.



She spent £52,600 by withdrawing cash and buying goods in stores including Debenhams, Next and Asda.



Financial investigator Tony Wood, of GMP, said: "Haslam stole tens of thousands of pounds from a fund set up by her own brother and the victim's dead father.



"Robert's father wanted to give him a fantastic start in life and Haslam tried to take that from him.



"This legislation has ensured Robert's wishes will be granted and once again goes to show our investigations don't stop once a defendant has been sentenced.



"The Proceeds of Crime Act is there not only to remove ill- gotten gains from the likes of drug dealers, but also allows, in cases such as this, for money fraudulently obtained from innocent victims to be returned to them - with interest."