‘Despicable’ social worker jailed after stealing thousands from elderly victims
PUBLISHED: 17:40 30 September 2013 | UPDATED: 17:40 30 September 2013
A thieving social worker who stole more than £31,000 from five vulnerable victims has been told her crimes were “disgusting” and “shameful” by a judge.
Disgraced Herts County Council social worker Lorraine Graves wept as she was jailed for 15 months.
During an 18-month spell, Graves, 36, stole from elderly and disabled people she was supposed to be helping, claiming her victims had been on holidays and purchased high-value electronics.
Cambridge Crown Court heard last Friday how she stole the money to fund a gambling addiction.
Her dishonesty only came to light after one of her victims, Christina Newman, died in July 2011.
Graves, unaware Mrs Newman was ill, had claimed the elderly woman had paid £1,000 for a caravan holiday two days before she was taken to hospital.
During an investigation by police and her employers at Herts County Council, it emerged Graves had helped herself to £12,750 of Mrs Newman’s savings.
She had also stolen from four further victims between August 2009 and July 2011.
Prosecuting, Charles Kellett said: “All of them were vulnerable elderly victims.
“She (Graves) was in a high degree of trust in relation to them, and that trust was abused.”
Mitigating, Laura Kenyon said Graves had developed a gambling addiction, and had resorted to payday loans as her plight became desperate.
Ms Kenyon said: “Miss Graves accepts what she’s done is despicable.
“This is an 18-month period in a career which spanned over 10 years, during which she made a positive impact on a number of people’s lives.”
Ms Kenyon said Graves was working with “scarce” resources, with little management support.
Graves had initially denied seven charges of theft, but changed her plea to guilty on the first day of her scheduled trial in July.
Judge Jonathan Haworth said he had no option but to jail her.
He told Graves: “You say you’re remorseful, and I think by now you might be, but you weren’t remorseful enough to plead guilty at the earliest stage.
“In your letter to me you describe your crimes as disgusting and shameful, and that I believe is right.”
Graves, of Glebe Road in Hertford, was sacked by Herts County Council after the thefts came to light.
Councillor Paul Zukowskyj, Lib Dem, criticised the Conservative council’s monitoring systems, saying: “She was given carte blanche to do as she liked with tens of thousands of pounds of pensioners’ money, with little chance of her theft being uncovered.
“She was only caught when the executor of a victim’s will questioned how someone who had been housebound for years through ill health could possibly have gone on a caravanning holiday to the South West of England.”
Detective Inspector Mike Trotman. who headed the investigation, said: “Crimes of this nature are despicable. This woman was placed in a position of trust which she totally abused.”