COURT: Harrogate care home owners to repay £40,000 stolen from residents

Tom Atcheson. Image: North Yorkshire Police (s).

Tom Atcheson. Image: North Yorkshire Police (s).

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Two care-home owners who stole more than £40,000 from their residents have been told they must pay back the full amount.

Husband and wife Tom and Linda Atcheson transferred huge sums of money from eight bank accounts over two years.

Linda Atcheson. Image: North Yorkshire Police (s).

Linda Atcheson. Image: North Yorkshire Police (s).

The couple had been handed responsibility to look after the finances of vulnerable residents at Granby Lodge care home near Skipton Road, Harrogate.

But they betrayed them by embarking on a “despicable” fraud spree after targeting the most vulnerable residents.

In August last year, they were each jailed for two years at York Crown Court after both pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud.

The couple were back in the dock on Thursday for a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Prosecuting barrister John Boumphrey said the Crown would be seeking the full amount stolen in confiscation - £45,010 - from the couple, as well as compensation at the same amount for the eight victims.

Judge Guy Kearl QC agreed to make an order for repayment of the entire amount and adjourned the compensation hearing to the week commencing April 25.

If the prosecution does not secure compensation for the victims on that date, the judge will order repayment under the confiscation procedure.

Defence barrister Laura Addy, representing Tom Atcheson, 66, said the couple, of Lynton Gardens, Harrogate, were now in the process of selling the care home for £640,000.

She added that the equity on the property - thought to be more than £100,000 - would be enough to cover the repayments, which have to be made within the next 12 months.

Patricia Doherty, for Linda Atcheson, 57, said her client was due to be released on an electronic tag on March 29.

During the sentence hearing last year, the court heard that the fraud spree was Mrs Atcheson’s idea and that she picked out eight victims who were particularly vulnerable because they had no immediate family connections who might query the missing sums.

Mrs Atcheson thought this would give her a better chance of getting away with the heinous acts, in which she and her husband transferred thousands into their joint business account between January 2012 and April 2014.

Mr Atcheson, a Cambridge University graduate, used online banking to make fraudulent transactions of up to £9,700 from the victims’ RBS accounts.

His wife, as owner/manager of the home for adults with learning difficulties and behavioural problems, was responsible for their bank accounts because they were unable to deal with their own finances.

The mother-of-two was the appointee and signatory for the residents’ accounts, but a financial audit at the care home in October 2014 revealed that massive sums had gone missing from the victims’ accounts.

The victims, whose ages ranged from 53 to 89, were said to have had a mutually strong bond with Mrs Atcheson, who they trusted implicitly.

The couple were arrested in November 2014 and admitted the offences, telling officers they were struggling financially.

As a result of their crimes and mounting financial woes, Harrogate Borough Council stepped in and rehomed the “greatly distressed” victims, some of whom had lived at Granby Lodge for over 30 years.

The care home went into liquidation and the couple were faced with remortgaging their home to repay the debts.