Harrogate care home owners jailed for stealing £40,000 from residents

Tom Atcheson.
Tom Atcheson.

The owners of a care home for vulnerable adults have been jailed for stealing over £40,000 from their residents.

Husband and wife Tom and Linda Atcheson transferred sums of money from the victims’ accounts over two years.

Linda Atcheson.

Linda Atcheson.

York Crown Court heard that the couple had deliberately targeted the most vulnerable people at Granby Lodge care home near Skipton Road.

Prosecuting barrister Nicholas Rooke said the fraud spree was the idea of Mrs Atcheson, 57, who picked out eight victims including those who were particularly vulnerable because they had no immediate family connections.

Mrs Atcheson thought this would give her and her husband a better chance of getting away with their acts, in which they transferred just over £45,000 of residents’ cash into their own account between January 2012 and April last year.

Mr Atcheson, 66, used online banking to transfer sums of up to £9,700 from the victims’ accounts.

Mr Rooke said Mrs Atcheson, as owner/manager of the home, was responsible for their bank accounts because they were unable to deal with their own finances.

He added that the victims - aged 53 to 89 - had formed a mutually strong bond with Mrs Atcheson, who they trusted implicitly.

The couple appeared in court for sentence on Tuesday after each admitted nine counts of fraud.

The court heard that Mrs Atcheson 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 been transferred from the victims’ accounts into the couple’s joint business account. The individual sums transferred from each of the eight accounts in single transactions ranged from £2,500 to £9,510.

The couple were arrested in November last year and admitted the offences.

“They said they intended to pay (the money) back to the residents but it has not been paid back three years later,” said Mr Rooke.

“Mrs Atcheson said she chose the residents that would cause them the least amount of comeback, such as those who had no family to query the missing money.”

Mr Rooke said the care-home business began losing money after Mr Atcheson, underwent surgery for kidney stones which went wrong, causing brain damage and a long spell in intensive care.

“He had previously run the (financial side) of the business but was not able to anymore,” said Mr Rooke. “Mrs Atcheson had to try to sort it out herself but she struggled.”

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

Defence barrister Patricia Doherty, for Linda Atcheson, said that halfway through the thieving spree, her client had asked her bank for a loan to repay the debts, but it had declined her request.

She said Mrs Atcheson, a mother-of-two, panicked when the business received a tax bill for £30,000, prompting her to “borrow” from residents’ accounts.

She added that relatives of two of the victims had testified how well their loved ones had been cared for by the couple and staff at the care home, which had 15 employees.

Taryn Turner, for Mr Atcheson, said her client had fought a long battle with alcoholism which had ruined his health.

She added that since the demise of the care home, which is now up for sale, the couple “had nothing by way of cash to satisfy their debts”.

Jailing both defendants for two years, Judge Mr D.P Hunt told them: “These are such mean offences that the word despicable is not strong enough a term to describe the offending.” The couple are also facing financial-confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act.