A MORTGAGE advisor fleeced almost £30,000 from two elderly customers and blew it on luxury foreign holidays.
Lisa Anderson, 36, who worked at Newcastle Building Society, in Hartlepool, used the cash to fund trips to Lapland, Tenerife and Lanzarote.
Anderson systematically emptied the accounts of an 81-year-old woman and a 79-year-old man, even changing contact telephone details so victims couldn’t be contacted when money began to go missing.
She pilfered £29,741 over two years before she was finally nabbed when the woman went into the building society, in York Road, to update her savings book on January 16, 2009, only to discover her account was empty and had been closed.
When confronted, she claimed she started to steal to fund physiotherapy for her son, who was a Manchester United hopeful who had broken his leg in an accident.
Anderson had stolen £13,881 from one of her victims by withdrawing the maximum £500 on multiple occasions.
Anderson, who at one point wiped away tears during the hearing, stole £15,860 from the second victim by making similar transactions.
Investigators believe Anderson had forged their signatures in order to process the fraudulent transactions.
Rupert Doswell, prosecuting, said: “The woman was particularly fond of Lisa Anderson.
“She made her feel cared for and special. Both victims confirmed they knew nothing about the withdrawals.
“She paid out considerable sums, £4,228, from her own account to cover holiday payments to Lanzarote, Tenerife and Lapland.”
At around the same time, unexplained deposits of £15,631 had appeared in Anderson’s own account.
It is believed she changed the victim’s phone number on building society records to prevent anyone from alerting him to the withdrawals being made from his account.
In a victim impact statement, the 81-year-old said she had been left in floods of tears by the fraud, and had lost two stones in weight from worrying about having to attend court.
The building society has reimbursed both victims at a cost to its members.
Katherine Dunn, mitigating, said Anderson’s stealing began in 2007 after her son, who had been set to join the Manchester United academy, broke his leg in a play park.
Her seven-year-old daughter, described as a promising dancer, later broke her leg in the same playing area and also needed treatment.
Miss Dunn said: “It was obvious that for her son to continue with his ambition, that physiotherapy offered by the NHS wasn’t good enough.
“At first, she saw it as just borrowing the money, and had every intention of paying it back. It was like a rollercoaster, things got completely out of control.”
Referring to the foreign holidays, Miss Dunn said Anderson denied using the stolen money for them, adding she would go away with friends who would give her the money to pay.
She added: “This defendant maintains she was not living a lavish lifestyle. The majority of the money was spent on her children.”
Anderson, of St David’s Walk, Hartlepool, admitted two counts of theft on the day she was due to stand trial last month.
Sentencing her to 20 months’ jail, Recorder Rodney Jameson QC said: “This is not purely motivated by greed. It is undoubtedly the case that some of this money has gone on things that were desirable, but not necessary.
“This was a very significant breach of trust of a very vulnerable victim.
“I am very conscious of the effect this has had on the immediate family, however Mrs Anderson has only herself to blame for that.”
Detective Constable Rachel Peake, the investigating officer from Cleveland Police Economic Crime Unit, hopes the sentence sends a warning to potential offenders.
“Do not be tempted to steal from people on the basis of their vulnerability, bank statements do not lie and it’s only a matter of time before the truth comes out.
“My advice to the public is simple; do not be complacent where your money is concerned, always double check passbooks and account statements and if you think something is untoward have another member of staff double check the transaction.
“This case has been extremely traumatic for the victims involved but by working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and Newcastle Building Society, justice has been done.”
A Newcastle Building Society spokesperson said: “After many months of working closely with Cleveland Police to facilitate their investigation we are pleased that this case has closed.
“We are especially pleased that due to the guilty plea of the defendant our customers did not have to go through the process of being called as a witness at a full trial.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and take a zero-tolerance approach to such incidents, which thankfully are rare. We have a range of rigorous automated and manual procedures in place to protect members’ assets, which is of paramount importance at all times.
“We can confirm that no customers have lost any assets as a result of this case.”