A COVENTRY gambler who abused his position of power of attorney to steal a pensioner’s life savings has been jailed.
Alan Lambeth, aged 48 of The Bentree, Stoke Aldermoor, pleaded guilty to fraud by abusing his position of power of attorney to steal almost £57,000 from a 71-year-old woman at Warwick Crown Court, and was jailed for 16 months.
Lambeth’s victim had suffered a brain injury in 2013, as a result of which four people, including Lambeth, were appointed to have power of attorney over her affairs.
But when the woman who had the principal role in handling financial matters had to go into hospital in 2014, Lambeth was left in control of the victim’s current and savings accounts.
Between February and December 2014 Lambeth made a large number of transfers out of the accounts, obtained a second bank card in his own name and drained the pensioner’s life savings – obtaining £24,200 in over-the-counter withdrawals, and a further £32,730 from cashpoints.
But when the woman who had first had control of the accounts was well enough to take on the role again early last year, she realised the money was gone.
Prosecutor Scott Coughtrie explained: “There was then a disclosure by the defendant, with his father present, that he had been taking money out for his personal use, knowing he was a habitual gambler.
“He said he was trying to get the money back from a loan, but was blacklisted because he was on a register of habitual gamblers.”
When he was arrested Lambeth, who had a conviction in 2000 for attempted theft from his employer, only admitted taking £12,000, claiming the rest was used to pay his wife who was caring for the pensioner at the time.
He later admitted to taking the total £56,930 from the account.
Jamie Scott, defending, conceded Mr Lambeth’s actions were ‘a breach of trust’ but argued Lambeth and his wife had continued to care for the elderly victim.
Mr Scott said: “There is clear remorse.
“He admitted these offences not just to the police, but to the family.
“He was quite palpably upset by his actions towards someone he considered a surrogate family member.”
Mr Scott said Lambeth insisted on trying to repay the money despite his gambling problems meaning he was unable to obtain a loan – managing to scrape together £1,000 to repay the woman.
He also said Lambeth has not bet since his offences came to light and has made efforts to address his gambling addiction- seeking help from Gamblers Anonymous and making sure he is banned from every bookmakers in Coventry.
In a last-ditch plea for his sentence to be suspended on health grounds, Lambeth turned up at court in a wheelchair just days after a judge had granted him bail ‘as an act of mercy’ so he could pay his last respects to his dying brother.
Mr Scott argued Lambeth was in poor health, having to take substantial medication for breathing difficulties, arthritis and a back condition – for which he also handed over medical documents detailing an appointment in September to discuss options for a back oepration.
But Judge Stephen Eyre QC was unimpressed, and said the documents could simply accompany Mr Lambeth to prison.
Jailing, Judge Eyre told Mr Lambeth: “You used that power of attorney to steal £56,000-odd over a period of about a year.
“That was a serious breach of the trust placed in you.
“I accept you and your wife provided real care to her, cooking for her and looking after her, but that makes it even worse that you chose to take her money.
“I’m going to take account of your personal circumstances and of your ill-health, and I accept you are genuinely remorseful, and that you have taken steps to address your gambling addiction.
“But there can be no alternative to an immediate prison sentence for this serious, sustained and deliberate dishonesty.”