EDITORS NOTE: ALTHOUGH THE IDENTITIES OF THE VICTIM AND THE GUILTY PERSON ARE NOT UNDER A PUBLICATION BAN, QUINTE NEWS WILL NOT NAME THEM OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE FAMILY.
A Quinte West man will serve another six months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing about $25,000 from his elderly and unwell uncle.
The 49-year-old had already served three months in jail for what Crown Attorney Lee Burgess described to reporters as a “despicable” crime.
Early last year, the uncle’s wife passed away, and shortly thereafter the 69-year-old suffered a stroke and was admitted to hospital.
His nephew was living with his aunt and uncle at the time and was put in control of the couple’s finances. They were not wealthy, living on
about $2,600 a month between them.
The uncle did receive a $50,000 life insurance payment after his wife’s death.
Court heard that in April and May of last year, the nephew, without permission, removed about $25,000 from the couple’s accounts, with most of it being stolen from his uncle.
Crown Attorney Lee Burgess said that some of the stolen money, about $5,000, was used for legitimate living expenses, but the rest was spent on illegal drugs and Nevada lottery tickets.
Burgess said that upon discovering his savings were being drained, the uncle was devastated by his nephew’s betrayal and remains so.
The Crown asked that the man be sentenced to one year in jail, minus the 90 days already served.
The man’s lawyer, Lee St. Aubin told court that no one would ever condone such an “egregious” crime but offered some background on the nephew, saying he’d been a working man until falling off a roof in 2008 and badly hurting his back.
The man was prescribed morphine and became addicted which led to involvement with illegal painkillers which St. Aubin said “destroyed his life.”
The defence lawyer asked for an eight month jail sentence less the 90 days served saying the early guilty plea by his client saved the family further anguish by avoiding a trial.
The man did have a prior criminal record involving impaired driving, fraud, theft, and break and enter. All of those crimes occurred after his injury.
Justice Stephen Hunter lamented the fact that the court is seeing a steady increase in the number of “elder abuse” cases as the huge baby boom cohort enters the golden years.
Justice Hunter said the “vulnerability of the victims” is always a primary concern in the cases, and that caregivers should realize that jail time is a very real possibility if found guilty of stealing from those under their care.
“The money belongs to the people who have it, not those looking after them.”
Justice Hunter also sentenced the man to 12 months probation and suggested he receive treatment for drug addiction. He is not to be in contact with certain members of his family, including his uncle. He was also ordered to repay $20,000 although the judge admitted the chances of that happening are slim.
Crown Attorney Burgess said that anyone considering handing over responsibility for their finances to family members or others always make sure that more than one person is responsible and has access to the necessary accounts and other information.