Former Richmondshire councillor jailed for stealing £46k from man in his 90s

Stephanie Todd. Photo: Glen Minikin.

A former Richmondshire councillor who stole £46,000 from a man in his 90s she befriended while shopping has been jailed.

Stephanie Todd, of Shute Road, Catterick Garrison, was today sentenced to two and a half years at Teesside Crown Court after being found guilty of theft.

Todd befriended former telecoms worker Philip Wall in August 2013 after meeting him while shopping in Richmond and taking him home when she believed ‘he was confused’.

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Two months later she began caring for the victim.

However, concerns were raised over the man’s welfare by the solicitors, Richmond-based Hunton and Garget, who had power of attorney over his financial affairs, after Todd escorted the victim to a different solicitors in Richmond to start the process of changing his power of attorney.

She had also convinced the victim to change his will leaving his house and contents to Todd.

A check was subsequently made on the man’s bank account statements which revealed that significant spending and ATM cash withdrawals had been placed.

Upon further investigation by North Yorkshire Police, it was found that there was a substantial change in the pensioner’s spending pattern which occurred from late August 2013 right up until Todd was arrested on 30 June 2016.

In the 10 days leading up to Christmas in one year, Todd withdrew £1,000 from Mr Wall’s account and also went on a spending spree in Marks and Spencer on his debit card.

Following Todd’s arrest, a search of her premises was conducted and a large amount of receipts and number of the victim’s bank statements were seized including the victim’s bank card which was in her purse.

The former Conservative representative for Hipswell on Richmondshire District Council, who later defected to UKIP, had denied the theft, but was found guilty at a trial.

Mr Wall died shortly after her convicted aged 98.

Lisa Potts, managing partner from Hunton and Garget solicitors, said after the sentencing: “We have a professional duty to protect the best interests of our clients and we reported this matter to the Police as soon as we were alerted to the fact that there were irregularities.

“We co-operated fully with the investigation throughout and gave evidence during the trial.

“We firmly believe that we were right to draw this matter to the attention of the authorities in order to stop the exploitation of an elderly gentleman.

“Our paramount concern at all times was protecting our client and acting in his best interests.

“We are pleased that the case has been prosecuted successfully and hope that the authorities will be equally successful in recovering the money taken from our client so that it can be distributed in accordance with his wishes.

“We sincerely hope that the prosecution and sentence will also serve to deter others who may seek to exploit vulnerable people.”

Detective Constable Nicola Hancock, from North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Todd preyed on an elderly and vulnerable man in his time of need, she gained his trust and proceeded to steal thousands of pounds, as well as convincing him to change the details of his will.

“Thankfully, the matter was brought to our attention and we carried out a lengthy investigation, which uncovered a change in the victim’s spending pattern and a significant increase in overall spending from the time Todd began caring for the victim until her arrest.

“The sentence sends out a clear message that this kind of offending, particularly against the vulnerable, will simply not be tolerated.

“North Yorkshire Police is determined to investigate such matters thoroughly and robustly.”

Financial Investigator Steve Wright, from North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit, who also worked as part of the investigation team, said: “The effect that crimes of this nature have on people is devastating.

“This was clearly a gross breach of trust and all the evidence shows the extent to which Todd took advantage of her elderly victim who sadly died shortly after the conviction.

“North Yorkshire Police will continue to pursue criminal charges against those who seek to exploit vulnerable members of our community.”

North Yorkshire Police will now seek a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recoup the stolen money.