Betrayal of trust: Ripon Carer who 'preyed upon a large number of vulnerable people' jailed after stealing £10,000 from residents

A care manager who stole more than £10,000 from people with acute learning disabilities has been jailed for two years.

Saturday, 16th June 2018, 3:21 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 6:07 pm
Katie Rivers has been jailed for two years.
Katie Rivers has been jailed for two years.

Harrogate Pride and Diversity March kicks off day of entertainment in Valley GardensKatie Rivers, 29, from Ripon, had been entrusted to look after the financial affairs of the 12 victims, who were housed in supported accommodation run by the Wilf Ward Family Trust.

In fact, Rivers shamelessly and systematically rifled through their accounts over a 15-month period – even withdrawing money on day trips for the vulnerable residents, all of whom had complex needs.

York Crown Court heard that Rivers, who had been promoted to assistant manager at the charity’s Ripon branch, was trusted “implicitly” by the families of the 12 victims.

Prosecutor Nicola Alistari said the victims, some of whom had Down’s Syndrome, each had personal and joint accounts for the three houses in the sheltered accommodation. Their debit cards were locked in offices in each of the three homes.

“Part of her duties was to check (that) the financial records from the three houses were accurate and that transactions recorded by staff matched the (figures in the victims’ accounts),” added Ms Alistari.

Harrogate's own World Cup single!In November 2016, another assistant manager informed charity bosses that Rivers appeared to be making claims for shifts she hadn’t worked.

When Rivers was confronted about the “irregularities” on her time sheets, she “blew up” and left for the day, claiming she had to see her doctor.

Rivers promptly went on sick leave – and used her leisure time to spend vast amounts of cash using a bank card belonging to a female resident with learning difficulties.

Ms Alistari said Rivers had been plundering the victims’ accounts for 15 months and was not caught out until April last year, when the named female resident noticed her debit card was missing.

Gallery: Ten garden plants you can actually eatHer bank statement showed that during the first three months of 2017, the card had been used at various shops and cash points in Ripon. Just over £2,000 had been spent on the card.

Rivers was duly arrested after police found the victim’s bank card in her purse. But the true extent of her fraud was only just coming to light after police and care staff checked the bank statements of the 11 other victims.

They revealed that Rivers had taken £8,358 from these personal and joint house accounts between January 2016 and April 2017.

Travel firm launches tour of Marcelo Bielsa's hometown for Leeds United fansMs Alistari said Rivers had withdrawn cash from the accounts while on outings with those in her care. She would then falsify the transaction sheets at the supported accommodation.

Rivers was twice quizzed by police and on both occasions she provided a written statement denying the fraudulent transactions. She even had the audacity to try to pin the blame on other care staff whom she falsely claimed would have had ample opportunity to take the money because of what she claimed were flaws in the financial-vetting system.

Rivers - who joined Wilf Ward as a support worker in July 2014 and was promoted to assistant manager in December 2015 - claimed she wasn’t experienced in financial management because she hadn’t received “adequate training”. These claims were dismissed in court.

She admitted stealing £2,027 from the female resident while she was on sick leave, but initially denied the fraud charges. It wasn’t until the day of trial earlier this year that she finally owned up to her wicked crimes.

Judge slams 'reckless and arrogant' driver who hit and killed tragic Leeds teenRivers, of North Street, Ripon, was rearraigned on all 12 fraud counts on Tuesday when the victims’ families packed into the public gallery behind the dock.

The court heard that Rivers’ shocking betrayal had greatly upset the victims who had formed a close bond with her.

Keith Whitehouse, for Rivers, said his client had been diagnosed with cancer in February 2015, just a few months before joining Wilf Ward, and was undergoing chemotherapy during the fraud period.

But Judge Andrew Stubbs QC said this “could not excuse or explain” Rivers’ “mean, mean offences”.

“This was the deliberate targeting of victims on the basis of their vulnerability,” added Mr Stubbs. “You preyed upon a large number of vulnerable people over a protracted period.

“I find it hard to imagine that your betrayal of trust could be exceeded by anybody else, and that the 12 victims could hardly have been more vulnerable.”

Rivers was given a two-year jail sentence and sobbed as she was led down to the cells by a dock officer.