Woman who helped con vulnerable OAP out of £6,000 avoids jail

A woman who helped defraud a vulnerable pensioner out of £6,000 has avoided jail.

Elizabeth Marks, 33, was given two years probation for lodging cheques wrongly made out to her as part of the scam.

But Belfast Magistrates’ Court heard the driving force behind the con had then “stripped” Marks’ own bank account.

Defence counsel Aaron Thompson said: “She took all of the risk and got none of the reward.”

Marks, of Atkinson Avenue in Portadown, was convicted of two counts of fraud by false representation.

Prosecutors said the elderly female victim’s power of attorney noticed two unauthorised cheques for £2,000 and £4,000 written in May this year.

They had been lodged into an account associated with Marks before sums of money were withdrawn.

She was arrested and interviewed, claiming to have acted under duress.

Distressed and sobbing as she appeared for sentencing, Marks had to be guided into the dock by her partner.

Mr Thompson argued that another, unnamed individual, had ingratiated themselves with the victim and her cheque book.

“She (Marks) would never have the guile or capability to execute that,” he said.

The barrister claimed, however, that within 24 hours his client was driven to cash machines and bank locations across Belfast and Donaghadee, Co Down.

“Her account was stripped of £6,000 ... back to an overdraft again,” he told the court.

Counsel acknowledged a serious breach of trust was involved, with Marks’ playing the role of “perfecting the crime”.

However, he insisted: “She is one down the line, it’s not that she was the one interacting with the vulnerable person and taking advantage of them.”

District Judge Fiona Bagnall said the victim’s circumstances represented a strong aggravating factor, meaning the offences “easily pass the custody threshold”.

But she also accepted Marks was not the one ultimately taking the money.

Based on reports prepared for the case, the judge instead imposed two years probation.

She warned: “I make it clear, if she breaches that order she faces immediate custody given the circumstances of this offence.”