Harrogate council officer found guilty of stealing from elderly residents

A Harrogate council officer has been found guilty of stealing from two elderly residents at sheltered accommodation in Ripon.

By Court Reporter
Monday, 11th April 2022, 3:57 pm
Updated Monday, 11th April 2022, 3:58 pm

Yvonne Jones, 60, who at the time was a Housing and Estate Officer for Harrogate Borough Council, asked the victims to pay a week in advance for rent at council-run sheltered accommodation – but kept some of the cash for herself, York Crown Court heard.

One of the named victims, a woman “of some years”, was conned out of £405 after moving into a new council-owned flat.

Prosecutor Philip Standfast said the victim, from Ripon, signed for the new flat in January 2018, when Jones visited her and completed the paperwork.

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A Harrogate council officer has been found guilty of stealing from two elderly residents at sheltered accommodation in Ripon

About two weeks later, Jones, from Harrogate, visited her again and asked her for a payment of £405.

Mr Standfast added: “(The victim) asked her if she wanted cash or a cheque and Jones said she would take cash."

The victim paid cash and Jones gave her a receipt on a business card, but it showed two figures of £180 and £225 rather than the whole £405.

Mr Standfast added: “(The victim) didn’t question why that receipt was written in that particular way.

"Later, her account was checked by a neighbourhood team leader with the council and there was no record of that cash being paid into that lady’s account.”

Mr Standfast said there were three payments of £85.67 into the council’s account in January and February 2018, but that still left a deficit of £147.72 which had not been credited to the victim’s account.

The second victim, a man who took up a tenancy at Blossomgate Court in Ripon, was fleeced out of £449 by Jones, whom he first met in February 2018.

She asked him for £200 for rent which he didn’t have on him, but he withdrew it from his bank the following day.

Mr Standfast said: “Despite having asked for £200, (Jones) gave him £20 back, saying he had given her too much.

“It’s not clear why she did that.”

On February 8, Jones met the named victim again and asked for another £200 rent.

Mr Standfast added: “He offered her a cheque, but the defendant said she needed cash and he withdrew it and paid it to her."

In early March 2018, there was a direct debit from the victim’s account to the council for £600, but Jones told him he owed £669.

Mr Standfast said: “She claimed the council could only take an amount of £600 from his account, so he withdrew (the extra) £69 from his bank and paid that to her."

The victim’s rental account was checked and the £469 he had given her, minus the £20 she gave him back, had not been credited to his account.

He notified the council of this.

Jones, of High Street, Starbeck, was found guilty of these two thefts following her trial which ended on Friday, April 1.

She was acquitted of three other counts in relation to three other tenants.

Mr Standfast said that Jones, who denied all allegations, had been employed as a housing and estate officer at the council from 2014 to 2018, when she was finally rumbled and ultimately resigned from her post.

Her role included dealing with tenants at Blossomgate and Bondgate Court in Ripon and “where necessary” taking payments from them for rent and other services.

Mr Standfast said it was “only in exceptional circumstances” that cash should have been taken from a tenant for rent.

He added: “If cash were taken, an official Harrogate Borough Council receipt should have been issued and cash paid in by in by the (housing) officer to a cash-deposit facility.

“That machine would issue a receipt and the cash would be credited to the tenants’ accounts on the following day.”

Mr Standfast alleged that Jones had also taken cash from three other “vulnerable” tenants and either didn’t issue receipts for these payments or did hand them receipts but didn’t forward some of that cash into the council’s account.

These alleged victims included a named man with learning difficulties who needed care and a 77-year-old pensioner with terminal cancer who was receiving housing benefit.

However, Jones was acquitted of these three allegations.

Mr Standfast alleged that all the complainants’ accounts were checked by a team leader at the council, who “found discrepancies between what had been paid by the tenants and what was found in their accounts”.

Enquiries were carried out and Jones was suspended in March 2018.

She resigned four days later.

Jones will be sentenced for the two convicted offences on April 29.