A MOTHER and daughter who cheated an elderly man out of more than £17,000 have been spared prison – so they can continue to earn money to pay him back.
The Royal Court heard that Amanda Joan Louis (53) and Shannon Stephanie Bellas (26) bombarded the 82-year-old with messages asking to borrow money – always promising to pay him back but never intending to.
The women admitted one count of fraud and their behaviour was described by Crown Advocate Simon Crowder as ‘cruel and nasty financial exploitation’ of the victim’s good nature.
Over the course of 20 months Bellas received £11,317 from the man and Louis received £6,127. They made relentless, repeated requests, the court heard, claiming they needed money for urgent bills or ‘emergencies’. Bellas once sent 22 messages on the same day asking for £80.
The Crown Advocate said that the man had always paid them because he regarded them as friends and believed their promise that they would pay him back.
‘In fact they had no intention of doing so,’ Crown Advocate Crowder said.
He told the court that the victim had become friends with Louis while he was living in Jersey. When he later moved to England he kept in touch with her and her daughter – and it was after he had relocated that they began pestering him for money.
‘He felt he was unable to refuse,’ Crown Advocate Crowder said.
Bellas claimed she needed the money for rent and medical bills. The court heard how she also set up a bank account and told her victim that it was her landlord’s. The money the elderly man paid into it, in the belief he was helping Bellas with her rent, went straight to her.
Louis gave a number of reasons why she needed money from her victim, including that she wanted to set up a business.
On one occasion the man visited her in Jersey and asked why the shop she said she was opening was boarded up. The court heard how she told him the shop ‘needed repairs’ and had to be ‘closed temporarily’.
Crown Advocate Crowder added: ‘He was left with virtually no pension to live on in England.’
Both women have now begun paying back the money, but the lawyer said: ‘There is no justification for the heartless actions that they carried out.
‘Such offences are punished by custodial sentences in all but the most exceptional cases.’
He recommended an 18-month prison sentence for Bellas and 15 months for Louis.
But both of the defendants’ lawyers pointed out that Bellas and Louis could not earn money to pay the victim back if they were in prison. They suggested community service orders be issued instead.
Advocate Nicholas Mière, defending Bellas, said that his client had already paid back £250.
He told the court that she was due to start a job on Monday that would allow her to carry on paying, and that a prison sentence would prevent that.
Advocate Julian Gollop, defending Louis, added: ‘How would a custodial sentence help the victim?’
He said Louis might find it hard to find a new job after leaving prison – were she to be incarcerated – and told the court: ‘All that period of time, the victim isn’t going to receive any funds at all from my client.’
Delivering the court’s sentence, Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, presiding, said serious frauds involving breaches of trust would normally result in a prison sentence.
But the court accepted that being imprisoned would prevent the women from paying back the money.
Mr Clyde-Smith added: ‘We are going to put the need of the victim first.’
Both women were sentenced to 240 hours of community service. Bellas must pay back the balance she owes – £11,067 – and Louis must pay the remainder of her debt, £5,677.
Detective Inspector Aiden Quenault, of the States police’s Joint Financial Crime Unit, said: ‘This case demonstrates the lengths that fraudsters will go to in order to obtain money for their own gain, no matter who the victim. It serves as a reminder that although the defendants in this case targeted a specific individual, everyone in the community needs to be vigilant to the potential of being the victim of fraud. The details of who, why and when should always be checked where money is being sent, loaned or transferred to anyone else. Further information on frauds and scams can be found on the States of Jersey Police website.’
Jurats Collette Crill and Robert Christensen were sitting.