Jail for carer who looted sick aunt's savings

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The Independent Online

A family carer was jailed today after admitting looting a sick aunt's savings account to pay for cars and cruises.

Christine Lodwick, 58, of Cwmgwili, Carmarthen, West Wales, was accused of siphoning off more than £200,000 to bankroll a luxury lifestyle for herself and her family.

It included three Mediterranean cruises costing almost £26,000 and down payments of more than £23,000 on a Mercedes C180K and a Range Rover.

She admitted 10 counts of theft out of an original total of 31 charges at a hearing earlier this month.

She was jailed at Swansea Crown Court for two years today after the prosecution accepted her guilty pleas and discontinued all other charges against her.

Husband Thomas Lodwick, 63, had three allegations of money laundering against him withdrawn at the same earlier hearing.

The amount stolen totalled £49,741 over more than a year from February 2006, but the prosecution made it clear today that it believed she had benefited to a much greater degree.

It has started confiscation proceedings against her for an expected higher amount despite the fact that she intends to pay back all £49,741.

Kevin Riorden, prosecuting, said Lodwick had taken power of attorney for her aunt Elizabeth Davies, 83, in April 2005 when injury forced her to go into a nursing home.

A year later she also took power of attorney for her aunt's daughter Patricia Davies, 63, who suffered from learning difficulties and could not cope alone.

He said the move gave her access to her widowed aunt's Lloyds TSB savings account which was £250,000 in credit.

She then registered for internet banking and was able to move large sums from the account into her aunt's current account, for which she had been issued with a bank card.

"The main plank of the prosecution case is that the defendant abused her trust," Mr Riorden said.

He said she then used the cash "to fund a lifestyle for her and her family which was way beyond her legitimate income".

He said that over a 16-month period from February 2006, £207,000 had been spent or withdrawn from her aunt's account.

Mr Riorden said Lodwick spent £23,754 at two local car dealers putting deposits on a Mercedes and Range Rover cars.

A further £25,987 was paid to P&O Cruises for three Mediterranean holidays with travel care.

He said Lodwick's husband, her two grown-up daughters and Patricia Davies all went on the cruises, which had stopovers at affluent hot-spots on the Mediterranean.

He said of Ms Davies: "I think it is fair to say that due to her limitation generally, she was not clear about what was going on."

The bank had questioned the large transfers from the savings account and set somebody to scrutinise what was happening, which eventually led to the police becoming involved, he said.

John Hipkin, in mitigation, said Lodwick's case was "practically unique".

He said she had been a carer all of her life, looking after family members from her ill husband to her elderly mother.

This was already a "heavy burden to bear" but she had taken on responsibility for her aunt and niece's affairs as well.

"This is not a case of a defendant simply stealing money for the sake of it. This is a defendant who also carried a heavy burden and did a lot for Patricia and Elizabeth Davies, as the Crown accepted on a previous occasion."

Christopher Morton, deputy circuit judge, passing sentence today, told Lodwick: "The prosecution has started confiscation proceedings and you have indicated that all the money covered by the counts to which you have pleaded guilty will be returned without opposition. You will get credit for that."

He said his starting point for custody had been three years but that that would drop to two years taking mitigating circumstances into account.

But he added: "Your victim was your aunt. She was elderly, she was in a residential home, she had very limited personal financial needs but understandably wanted to preserve her money for her own daughter who had her own special needs.

"Your victim was particularly vulnerable."