The deputy manager of a Northamptonshire care home, who stole £1,800 from the Christmas funds of vulnerable adults, was employed despite being a convicted fraudster, a court heard.
Cheryl Gutteridge, 37, was allowed to work at the Oakfield care home in Easton Maudit with responsibility for 17 residents’ personal finances, even though she was convicted of a £25,000 benefit fraud.
Northampton Crown Court heard today Gutteridge stole £1,832 from the Christmas funds of 17 adult residents, who are considered vulnerable due to various levels of learning disabilities.
Rebecca Wade, prosecuting, said: “The home cares for 13 full time residents, all of them with varying levels of disabilities.
“The defendant was the deputy manager of that home and an accompanying home, Homestead, with four residents.
“One of the defendant’s roles was to undertake the Christmas gift shopping for the residents under her care.”
The court heard each resident wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking for a gift, which she would buy for them to open on Christmas Day.
Miss Wade added: “These letters were given to the defendant who would then go to the finance manager and receive amounts of cash to satisfy what was on the list. She would then go out and purchase the goods. She would then bring back the receipts and the items would be charged to the residents’ accounts. Her duties also included wrapping them up.”
An internal investigation later found money was missing as Gutteridge had bought inappropriate gifts, such as women’s clothing for men and toilet brushes, but instead of using the cash provided specifically for the presents, she would use her own debit card. She then later returned to the shops with the receipts and the items to secure refunds to her account.
Miss Wade said Gutteridge, who admitted fraud by abuse of position, stole the money in varying sums of between £26 and £261, of which £625 was refunded to her account.
She added: “One of the residents was refused access to one of the activities he liked doing due to a lack of funds in his account.
“He neither received the gift he should have done but because money was taken from his account, he could not enjoy the activity he enjoyed doing.”
Miss Wade said Gutteridge, of Samuel Place, Corby, was employed at the home despite a conviction for benefit fraud in 2005 for which she received 180 hours’ community service.
Judge Peter Tomlinson sentenced her to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with probation supervision, and 250 hours’ unpaid work.
He said: “You have a previous conviction for fraudulent behaviour involving quite a significant sum of money in 2005.
“Subsequent to that, you obtained employment in a care home for people with varying degrees of disabilities
“The offence to which you have pleaded guilty is one of astonishing meanness.”
The home’s former finance manager, Jenny Glanister, 51, was jailed for 32 months at Northampton Crown Court in April after she stole £330,000 from the same home of adults with learning difficulties.
Glanister, who called herself ‘Lady’, spent the money on a luxury lifestyle of clothes, jewellery and wine.
When police raided Glanister’s home, in Penfold Drive, Kingsthorpe, Northampton, they found 15 fur coats and £233,000 of goods from Rocks and Co and Tiffany jewellers.
A spokesman for Oakfield said: “The revelations disclosed surrounding the severity of the previous conviction of Gutteridge came as a complete surprise to the board of directors at Oakfield.
“Had this information been made available at the time of her employment, she would not have been employed in the position of trust that she held.
“The previous board which employed her could only work on the information she provided. I have been informed she did not disclose her previous conviction at any time during her interview or application.
“This raises the question of appropriate CRB checks which again I have been informed were in order prior to her taking up her position.
“We are now duty bound to conduct an internal enquiry as to the suitability of her employment, this will involve checking with other agencies including CQC to determine that all necessary checks were conducted and in order prior to any contract of employment issued.
“We are disappointed with the outcome. Gutteridge carried out her financial abuse towards all 17 residents at Oakfield in the knowledge that the previous manager at Oakfield (Glanister) had been convicted of fraud/deception. Yet she still carried out her crimes.
“This coupled with the disclosure that was laid before the court relating to her previous fraud conviction yet she escaped a custodial sentence.
“Oakfield is committed to safeguarding vulnerable people and ensuring residents have their rights protected. Discovering the actions of both Glanister and Gutteridge and taking every step to ensure a safe conviction is testament to the transparency of the board of directors and the care staff. Oakfield care home continues to work closely in partnership with local authorities,NHS and CQC.”