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Hospital worker who stole £12,000 from disabled pensioner she was friends with faces two years in prison
Hospital theater worker Wareewan Lee has been jailed for two years and three months for stealing thousands from a wheelchair-bound retiree she befriended while delivering his ‘meals on wheels’
A hospital cinema worker who stole thousands from a wheelchair-bound retiree she befriended while delivering his ‘meals on wheels’ has been sentenced to two years and three months.
Wareewan Lee, 44, who is currently suspended from her job at Darent Valley Hospital near Dartford, Kent, has used up disabled Gerald Beach’s ‘rainy day’ savings of just over £12,000 within two years.
A court heard she began withdrawing ‘hundreds of pounds every few days’ from ATMs shortly after Mr Beach received a PPI payment of £7,524 – an amount she had helped him claim – into a Lloyds bank account in August 2016.
Within a month, the balance had fallen to £4,800 and had risen to just £27 by April 2017, Maidstone Crown Court, Kent, was told.
Lee has even withdrawn money from ATMs at the hospital and at Gatwick Airport when she traveled to see family in Finland and Spain.
Mr Beach, who is 83 and reportedly had ‘severe physical’ mobility problems, began receiving monthly payments from the Department for Work and Pensions of £339 into the same account from June 2017.
But Lee kept stealing and in June of the following year, when her deception was finally discovered, it was only £4.18.
A neighbor of Mr. Beach told a jury that she was shocked by his financial condition and so notified Social Services.
He later told police he now felt ‘very gullible’, trusted very few people and was still in debt of £4,500.
But Lee, 44, claimed in court that she did not steal money from the man she described as “like a father” and denied that she manipulated his ill health for her own benefit.
Lee told police she had only used Mr. Beach’s bank cards to pay his bills.
But the jury was told that all bills, groceries and “incidentals” were covered by a second, Nationwide account.
Lee, of Orsett near Grays in Essex, denied the theft of £12,181 between August 2016 and June 2018, but was found guilty at trial in April with a 10 to 2 majority verdict.
When Lee returned for sentencing on Friday (June 10), Lee was told by Judge Philip St.John-Stevens that she was unable to “confront her dishonesty” and told “palpable lies” to the court.
He also said Mr Beach had placed “a lot of faith” in her as she kept an eye on his bank account and raised “heartless” funds.
“This defendant was aware that Mr. Beach was vulnerable and relied on others to take care of him,” the judge said.
“She knew he wasn’t looking at bank statements and that Mr. Beach had been targeted because of his vulnerability and his inability to check that account.”
But Judge St. John-Stevens said he accepted she hadn’t intended to mislead the retiree when she first started helping him.
The crime had nothing to do with Lee’s work at the hospital.
The court heard that she began to care for the retiree unofficially in 2006, after they met while delivering dinners at his senior housing complex in Aylesford, Kent.
For about 12 years she said she cooked, cleaned and shopped for him without any payment and while working two jobs and taking care of her young children.
Maidstone Crown Court in Kent (pictured) was told how Lee drained disabled Gerald Beach’s ‘rainy day’ savings of just over £12,000 within two years
Lee, who has no previous convictions, also lived with Mr. Beach in his apartment for four years.
But prosecutor Eleanor Scott-Davies told the court that Lee “benefited” from their friendship.
“She used her relationship with Mr. Beach to take money that wasn’t hers and that she didn’t have permission to,” said Ms. Scott-Davies.
“She got this money because of Mr. Beach’s age, fragility, and his trust in her.
“This was deliberately targeting someone who was vulnerable. If Mr. Beach had been able to go out and do his errands and other daily chores, Lee would never have been able to commit this offense.
“Because he was housebound and living in limited circumstances, she had access to the bank card.”
Mr. Beach was not present in court to testify, but in a taped interview, he said Lee had been helping out at his home before offering to do his “banking and shopping.”
Mr Beach said he gave her permission to use his Nationwide account, but not Lloyds’s, which had been “practically asleep” before receiving the PPI payment.
He added that he did not know how she knew the PIN and did not know that he had ever told her it.
That account was “one for a rainy day,” he added.
Mr Beach told police he had never seen his Lloyds bank statements, and when he finally saw one ‘there was nothing’.
He insisted he had never asked her to take any money for him and in a victim statement, Mr Beach said, “I’ve lost my faith in people. I trust my caretakers and my cousin.
“I kept tapping and went back to where I started. I don’t have any confidence.’
The court heard that his cousin is now taking care of his financial affairs.
Fellow resident Shirley Bedford, an 83-year-old retired nursing assistant, testified, describing Lee as having a “grip” over Mr. Beach.
She told the court that, having known him since childhood, she was shocked when she moved into the residential complex in 2017 to find Mr. Beach in a “very bad” condition.
Mrs Bedford said he had little furniture, that his TV was on an orange cabinet and that he had rent arrears.
“He never had money, he couldn’t have the little treats,” she told the jury.
‘I said to him, ‘How come you sit here in rags and have next to nothing?’
‘Why didn’t he have any money? Why didn’t he have luxury?’
She was also concerned that Lee was locking up Mr Beach in his house and after informing social services, she found that Lloyds bank account was virtually empty.
Aid worker Debbie Carter told the court that Lee would cook food in the retiree’s flat to give to her hospital colleagues, while Mr Beach “had nothing in his cupboards and would get microwaved meals if he was lucky”.
Lee’s attorney John Barker told the sentencing hearing while Lee expressed regret and concern for the retiree, still not accepting that she had acted unfairly.
A court heard that Lee began taking ‘hundreds of pounds’ from ATMs every few days shortly after Mr Beach received a PPI payment of £7,524 – an amount she had helped him claim – into a Lloyds bank account in August 2016
He said she would now lose her job, despite being highly regarded by others and “setting a shining example in her professional life.”
The court has also heard that Lee is the primary caretaker of her disabled partner of eight years, who accompanied her throughout her trial despite being in a wheelchair and using his limbs with limited use after a spinal cord hemorrhage several years ago.
Lee gave testimony to the jury, claiming that all the money she took was at Mr Beach’s request.
‘I didn’t do anything wrong.. I took care of Gerry, I took care of him. He was like a father to me and it’s very disturbing,” she said.
“Gerry gave me the card, told me the PIN and told me to get the money for him, and I did and I gave him the receipt every time.
‘I didn’t keep it to myself. I used it for Gerry’s purposes. I haven’t done anything wrong.’
Asked about the cash withdrawn at the airport, Lee said it was taken with Mr. Beach’s permission to buy gifts for her family.