Woman jailed for emptying her granny’s bank account
A 38-year-old woman who drained her 78-year-old grandmother’s bank account of $40,513.39 has been sentenced to spend 11 months in prison.
Sentencing for Nadia Lawrence was pending since she pleaded guilty at the Kingstown Magistrate’s Court (KMC) on March 30 to multiple instances of theft, that she committed between dates in October, 2016 to May, 2019 against her grandmother Nola Lawrence, a retiree from Colonarie.
Sentencing had been pushed back because of the explosive eruptions of La Soufrière, but then the offender told the court that someone would help her to repay her grandmother.
“..I had mentioned before $40,513.39 cents stolen from an elderly lady, at her age, she is not going to work for that again in her life. That wouldn’t happen,” Senior Magistrate Rickie Burnett revised at sentencing on May 21.
He recalled that Nadia’s grandmother had expressed to the court that she wanted her money back. The defendant is unlikely to be able to pay the sum back on her own, and in a timely fashion. In questions asked by the court, she had revealed that she worked as a security guard at the Colonarie community centre, making around $300 a fortnight, and her savings at a credit union amount to around $200.
Therefore, the court came to a conclusion that she could not pay her grandmother compensation based on her means. However, a friend of the defendant had presented himself to the court, and the court was supposed to hear from him again on May 21, but he did not show up.
“…The thing about it is that even if you are sent to prison you know that you have an obligation to pay back your grandmother her money, whether or not the court orders that, you should know that,” the magistrate told the defendant, in response to something she told him, very softly.
“I’ve heard you on that, but I’m not going to wait, I’m going to proceed with my sentence this morning and as I’ve indicated to you up front, once the money cannot be paid, you are going to prison,” Burnett told her.
He applied the sentencing guidelines of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court(ECSC) on offences of dishonesty. This offence which involved stealing from a senior citizen over the span of some years must be considered a serious offence, he said, and that the money was of substantial value to the elderly woman.
Previously, the court had been informed of the circumstances of the matter. Nola had two accounts, one with the FirstCaribbean International Bank (CIBC), and another at RBTT Bank Caribbean Ltd, to which she was the sole contributor.
Nola had been advised by her daughter who lives in Canada, that because of the distance between Colonarie and Kingstown, she should add her granddaughter’s name to the accounts, so that Nadia could assist her with transactions. At the time, Nadia resided with her grandmother.
Nola followed this advice, and after putting her granddaughter’s name on the accounts, sent her to make deposits.
On October 6, 2016, Nadia deposited $982.69 into the account at RBTT Bank, but on the same day she withdrew $782.69.
Since then a total of 25 withdrawals were made, amounting to $21,113.39. These transactions were done at the ATM.
Likewise, at the CIBC bank, since the first withdrawal of $200 on October 31, 2016, 33 withdrawals were made from the ATM, amounting to $19,400.
After becoming suspicious, the grandmother checked the accounts in May 2020 and discovered that they had been depleted.
A report was made to the police, and the defendant told them “I think I started to take out the money in November, but I cannot recall what year. And from then I’ve been taking out like there was no tomorrow…”
She said she does not know why she did it, but that she spent the money.
At sentencing, the court noted that she had cleaned out the accounts, which “inconvenienced the poor old lady” and “left her basically penniless”, and caused emotional distress.
“She is going to remember that until she dies, can’t forget that,” the magistrate commented.
Therefore, he began at 35% of the maximum sentence, which is two years’ incarceration for theft. Then he calculated based on aggravating and mitigating features, and as is required in most circumstances when an offender admits guilt, he applied a one third discount to this.
Consequently, the final sentence came to 11 months in prison, with the months she has already spent on remand subtracted from this.