A shameless nephew is starting a new life behind bars after betraying his 86-year-old aunt by fleecing her out of her £330,000 life savings.
Vera Banks now fears she can not even cover her own funeral costs after Ian Stanworth, 54, fed the proceeds of her house sale and all her savings into fruit machines in Blackpool.
You took her for just about everything she had
Stanworth has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to fraud.
But had it not been for the charity of the care home owner who has reduced her fees, Mrs Banks would be homeless after cheques to cover her care costs were returned unpaid.
Preston Crown Court heard Stanworth, of Waterdale, Bispham, was granted power of attorney in 2007 when Mrs Banks – then in her late 70s – decided to move into the Golden Years Care Home in Shaftesbury Avenue, North Shore.
The arrangement was that Stanworth would have control of the money but Mrs Banks would pay for personal items such as haircuts and gifts for family by cheque.
Nicholas Courtney, prosecuting, said: “The arrangement worked perfectly well. Her day to day living expenses and her home fees were paid as and when required up until February 2014 when a cheque which Mrs Banks had written for her care home fees was returned by the bank because there were insufficient funds.
“The cheque was resubmitted and was again returned because of the lack of funds.”
Stanworth was contacted by the care home’s management, who knew he had control of Mrs Banks’ finances.
But Stanworth told them: “The money has been dwindling away. You have put your fees up.”
When the care home bosses pointed out the fees had increased by just £10 a week, Stanworth said he had his own problems, and hung up the phone. Over seven years he had plundered two savings accounts of £83,500 and £175,000, an ISA of £12,000 and £106,000 proceeds from the sale of Mrs Banks’ home in 2008.
Mrs Banks’ solicitor advised the pensioner to revoke the power of attorney from her nephew and the care home contacted the police.
When Stanworth’s brother Neil - who lives outside the area - rang him, concerned his aunt had not sent his daughter a card for her 21st birthday - something very out-of-character for Mrs Banks - Stanworth told him he had given up power of attorney and had nothing to do with her as she would not listen to him and was spending her money too fast.
Stanworth also told his brother his aunt did not want any visitors and had told staff at the care home to keep guests away. When Neil Stanworth visited his aunt he was welcomed with open arms and discovered his brother had been lying to him.
Police enquiries revealed Stanworth had been transferring money to his own account to supplement his monthly £1,700 civil servant’s salary.
He was arrested at his home in Bispham and admitted taking the money, saying he had used the money to pay off business expenses and to fund his gambling addiction to fruit machines.
In a victim personal statement read to the court Mrs Banks spoke of her disappointment in her nephew - someone she had always helped out.
She said she now feared she did not have enough money to bury herself and was only able to stay in the care home she chose as the manager had reduced her fees to enable her to stay. Mr Courtney said: “She has gone from someone with assets and savings of £335,000 to someone who has to rely on charity to stay in her home.”
Judith McCullough, defending, said: “As so often in cases such as this, in the beginning he borrowed amounts of money.
“He intended to repay it and that is always a dangerous strategy, but when you add into the mix his long standing gambling compulsion it soon spiralled out of control.”
She added Stanworth has a number of health problems which will make prison life difficult for him.
Judge Stuart Baker, sentencing, said: “You knowingly and deliberately plundered your aunt’s savings and you took her for just about everything she had.
“She was an elderly lady, well into her 70s when she entrusted her affairs to you as a responsible man who had a responsible job and appeared to be worthy of her trust.
“This was persistent, long term, planned and purposeful fraud in which I think you showed complete disregard for your aunt’s welfare.”
Speaking after the sentence hearing, Mrs Banks’ other nephew Neil, said: “What is so sad in this case is that Vera was like a second mother to us. She has no children of her own. She and her husband were good to us, taking us on days out.
“I just wish we had known. We knew nothing about this for years. If we’d have known a tenth of what we do now we would have put a stop to it.
“Vera didn’t have to give power of attorney to Ian. She did it because he lives close by but with internet banking I could have looked after her just as easily.
“We had no idea he was gambling.
“I know he used to have a gambling problem but that was long ago. He used to go playing on the slot machines up Red Bank Road.
“We found out he has put £330,000 into those slot machines. All Vera’s money is gone.”