Jail for care home boss who stole £20k from vulnerable resident
A crooked care home manager who milked almost £20,000 from the bank accounts of a vulnerable resident has been jailed for 16 months.
The case prompted a warning to those with relatives being looked after in similar circumstances to be on their guard.
Paul Wehrle-Fellows syphoned cash from the savings of Brenda Rowlinson for two and a half years before admitting the racket.
The 48-year-old had control of the finances of the woman who was in her late 70s at the time and had banked £161,612 from the sale of her house to fund her care, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
This was in a Santander account but she also had money in two other banks, explained Mr Richard Gibbs, prosecuting.
The victim, who moved into Crossways Residential Home, Highgate Road, Walsall, in March 2013, was never shown any statements by Wehrle-Fellows.
She was mentally agile but needed daily assistance physically, the court heard.
He knew the PIN number to her bank card which was kept in the safe in his office with other financial documents.
Money spent or given to those living there should have been registered and countersigned for but the record was ‘neither complete nor accurate,’ disclosed the prosecutor, who described the security as 'woeful and lamentable.'
He concluded: "It was a shocking failure."
Suspicion was aroused when residents’ correspondence was opened before it reached them and a carer recovered a screwed up statement for Mrs Rowlinson’s bank account in a litter bin..
Wehrle-Fellows, who lived at Westley Court, West Bromwich, and was of previous good character, resigned on December 5 last year and sent emails to his boss admitting his crime and explaining he was too embarrassed to confess face to face. He had stolen a total of £19,298.
Mr Jasvir Mann, defending, said: “He and his then partner jointly led a lifestyle they could not afford.
"Initially he took cash but he managed to repay it before it was noticed that it was missing.
"Then he became emboldened and started taking money from her bank account and was not able to replace that.
"He started spending money frivolously on unnecessary items. He had free access to somebody else's money.
"He is now a broken man, having suffered an enormous fall from grace and is thoroughly ashamed."
Wehrle-Fellows, now of Ribble Road, Blackpool, admitted fraud by abuse of position between July 2014 and January 2017 and was jailed by Recorder Anthony Lowe who told him: “This was a blatant and wicked breach of trust.
"The general public should be put on notice they should ensure the financial affairs of relatives in care homes are being properly monitored.”
Paul Reid, District Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Paul Wehrle-Fellows abused his position of trust in order to steal money from a vulnerable victim, funds which were intended for her care.
“Targeting someone because of their vulnerability makes a crime even more serious, so it is important that together we bring these people to justice – whether they be strangers, carers or family members.”
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