Greedy housekeeper forged disabled grandma’s checks and deposited THOUSANDS into her bank account
A former riding instructor stole £8,400 from a frail grandma in a check scam while working as a cleaner.
Michaela Reeves, 31, from Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside, stole four checks from him after finding his bankbook in a box by his bed – then deposited them into his own account.
A judge said it was “difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a more serious breach of trust for a vulnerable old lady in her own home”.
Bolton Crown Court heard she claims an unnamed man stole checks from the home of disabled Oldham Olive Watmough during a burglary.
Reeves, a former riding center manager from Wilshaw Grove, Ashton, denied the theft and four counts of fraud.
But a jury found Reeves guilty after a trial – and she broke down in tears when a judge handed down a suspended prison sentence.
Tragically, Ms Watmough, 80, died before the case went to court.
During the scam, Reeves filled in increasing four-figure sums on Yorkshire Bank payment slips and forged Ms Watmough’s signature.
A court heard she waited several weeks before banking each of the interval days in an effort to avoid triggering alerts.
Three payments – for £1,900, £2,700 and £3,800 – were credited to her account, but the court heard Reeves was arrested when bank officials blocked a fourth deposit of £7,800 and had started to investigate.
When Ms Watmough found out about the thefts she was said to be ‘devastated’ and told police: ‘You just don’t think anyone you trust would do this’.
The bank covered the losses, the court heard,
Reeves was jailed for two years, suspended for two years.
Judge Recorder Graham Wells told her: ”Ms Watmough was an elderly lady who needed help as she was vulnerable. She kept the checks upstairs in a box by her bed.
”Your job was to clean his house and help him. You had unattended access to all areas of the house.
“As the housekeeper, you were trusted, but you searched and found those checks and stole them from the book as part of a cunning plan.
“You have distributed them in increasing sums over time between them in an attempt, no doubt, to pass them on to the eyes of the bank and Mrs Watmough.
”It was several days and weeks after you stole those checks that you cleared the first one.
‘The effect on Ms Watmough, described in her written statement before her death and amplified by her granddaughters, was that it was devastating.
”His financial security seems to have been breached, his trust betrayed.
“It is difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a more serious breach of trust for a vulnerable old lady in her own home. Even though she was compensated by the bank, the impact of this offense on her was high.
”You don’t accept the jury’s verdict and there is no remorse, and you are in denial despite the overwhelming evidence against you. Without the help of your lawyer, you would have gone to jail.
“The jury said they hoped this would bring an end to Ms Watmough’s family.
“I echo that and hope it’s the end of a chapter in your life as well.”
The thefts took place between December 2017 and February 2018 after Ms Watmough hired Reeves through an agency.
Paul Dockery, prosecuting, said: ‘Ms Watmough had a disability which meant he was unable to move around the house and do housework. During the work at this house, four checks went missing which were later used by the defendant and made out to her name.
”Three transactions were successful – the fourth was not. The last one was arrested by the bank. All the money was returned to the family by the bank, which repaired Ms Watmough’s losses.
”When the jury delivered their verdict, they offered their condolences to Ms Watmough’s family.
“In her reaction to the offense, Ms Watmough said ‘you just don’t think anyone you trust would do that’.”
Reeves received a warning in 2006 for dishonesty, the court heard.
Keith Harrison, for Reeves, said: ”She has been under significant stress waiting for this case to be dealt with and it has had an impact on her mental health. She wants to put that behind her.
“Despite the fact that she denies the offense, she realizes that the court must respect the verdict of the jury.”
Reeves was also ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid labor and 20 days of rehabilitation.
She will face a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act at a later date.
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