A “despicable” north-east carer who stole from vulnerable pensioners, including a 90-year-old woman, has been jailed.
Ana Duarte, who was employed by Allied Healthcare at the time, took advantage of her position to steal money, cash tins, wallets, purses, and keys from vulnerable people who required homecare.
The 45-year-old targeted people who she was supposed to be caring for, as well as those she had previously been a carer to, across Fraserburgh, Strichen and New Pitsligo.
Duarte even stole a purse and £120 from a 90-year-old in a sheltered housing complex while posing as a carer to con her way inside.
Duarte, of Cross Road, Norfolk, previously admitted five charges of theft, one of theft by opening a locked place, and one of housebreaking with intent to steal.
Duarte stole cash to pay off drug debts
The case had been deferred for reports, but she has now appeared back in the dock at Aberdeen Sheriff Court to be sentenced.
Defence agent Declan O’Keefe said his client’s life took a “dramatic downward spiral” when her partner built up “drug debts” with individuals in the Liverpool area.
He said she was under “extreme pressure” and suffered “severe anxiety” as a result.
Mr O’Keefe said: “She made one of the worst decisions of her life by stealing from the individuals to try and clear the debts her and her partner found themselves in.”
‘Quite simply despicable behaviour’
He said the crimes were committed out of “sheer desperation” and that she had since been disowned by some of her family.
The lawyer said it had turned her life “entirely upside down” and would “cast a shadow over her for the rest of her life”.
Sheriff Graham Buchanan told Duarte: “I hear all that’s been said on your behalf. I understand the pressures you were under at the time, but to deal with this in this way, by targeting victims who you knew to be vulnerable, was quite simply despicable behaviour.
“The conclusion I have reached is these matters are so serious really there’s only one appropriate sentence and that is one of imprisonment.”
He ordered her to be jailed for 13 months.
Fiscal depute Colin Neilson previously told Aberdeen Sheriff Court: “All complainers mentioned in this report are elderly, vulnerable and receive daily home care from Allied Healthcare.
“They offer support to older and disabled people UK-wide by providing services such as preparing meals, washing and giving medication.
“The accused had been employed by Allied Healthcare as a home carer since September 2019. She was previously employed with the company between May 2015 and March 2019.”
Accused stole cash box from 89-year-old’s home
In the first incident, Duarte stole a cash box from an 89-year-old woman she was a carer for in Fraserburgh.
Mr Neilson said: “On October 30 2019 the complainer’s nephew gave the complainer £200 in cash. She stored this in a red cash box locked with a key. She kept it in her kitchen.
“They were the only two people who had access to this tin.
“During the day, the complainer used the money for various items and noted that she had £40 left, which she put in the cash box.
“Between this time and Monday November 4 2019, she did not access her cash box.
“On November 4 she went to get her cash box to pay her hairdresser and found the cash box was missing.
“The accused was one of the home carers who came to provide care at the locus. The accused had stolen it.
“The £40 was not recovered.”
On November 8 or 9 2019, Duarte broke into the Strichen home of an 87-year-old man, who received home care three times a day.
Mr Neilson said Duarte entered the property for a short while before leaving.
He added: “The owner required to get new keys made.”
Victim, 89, was disabled and rarely left the house
Duarte’s third victim was targeted around November 10 or 11 2019.
Mr Neilson said: “The complainer is 89 years old and lives alone at the address. She is disabled and rarely leaves her home.
“She receives homecare six times per day. At the time of the incident, the accused was one of her carers.”
Duarte stole her bank card and used it to withdraw £250. The money has not been recovered.
In another incident, on November 11 or 12 in New Pitsligo, Duarte targeted a 55-year-old man with mobility issues.
Mr Neilson said: “The complainer has home carers who attend three times per week. He generally leaves his door unlocked.
“At the time of the incident, the complainer had left his wallet, with £200 cash in it, on a shelf in the living room.
“The accused had previously worked at the locus as a carer but not at the time of the incident.
“She had entered the unlocked property while the complainer was away.
“She had stolen the wallet and cash. The items were not recovered.”
Duarte pretended to be 90-year-old’s carer
In the final incident, on November 20 2019, Duarte targeted a 90-year-old woman at a sheltered housing complex in Fraserburgh.
Mr Neilson told the court: “At the time of the incident, the complainer’s purse was in her bedside drawer containing £120 in cash.
“At around 6.30pm on November 20 2019, the accused entered the property via a front door buzzer system while pretending to be a carer.
“The complainer let her in. She was not the complainer’s carer.”
Duarte was was arrested the following day and made “full admissions” to police.