Chelsea Whittaker (pictured), 31, of Manchester Road, Accrington, appeared at Preston Crown Court today (November 15th) to be sentenced for fraud, having previously pleaded guilty to stealing money from around 30 people.
She was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
The crimes occurred while Whittaker was working as a service manager for care company, Lifeways, which runs homes across Lancashire for people with limited mental or physical capacity. One of Whittaker’s duties was to oversee the finances for several residents, and cash cheques for them as and when they needed money.
On several occasions between 2015 and 2018 she withdrew cash from their accounts and took some – or all – of it for herself.
She admitted in court last month that she had stolen at least £200,000, but ‘not as much as £300,000’.
The victims were based at care homes in Accrington, Burnley, Colne, Blackburn, Nelson, Haslingden, Morecambe, Skelmersdale and Leyland. The families of all the victims have since been made aware of the thefts.
The mother of one of the victims told police that as a result of Whittaker’s actions her son had been left without the money in his bank account to pay for basic toiletries, and as a result had been forced to save up simply to buy shaving foam.
The sister of another victim said her brother should have had around £14,000 in his bank account but was left with so little money that he was unable to pay for proper rehabilitative care as he recovered from a heart attack. He died in hospital after becoming anxious and refusing further treatment.
The sister of a third victim told the court: “I struggle to believe that a woman we trusted so much with my brother’s care has done this to him. I am so angry and devastated by it all.”
She added: “She clearly didn’t care that he was struggling in the last few years of his life and as he lay there she time and time again stole money from him in his most vulnerable position.
“She has left me with an enormous feeling of anger mixed with guilt that I wasn’t able to stop her doing this to him. As a family our feelings are very raw and we feel devastated.”
Det Con Stephen Dixon, a financial investigator for Lancashire Police, said: “Whittaker was in a managerial position which left her in charge of the finances of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Her victims relied on her and trusted her, and her betrayal of this is truly shocking.
“Over a three year period Whittaker not only cashed in cheques for the service users she was directly tasked with looking after, but she would offer to cash cheques for colleagues’ clients. She would claim she was doing them a favour, but certainly on some of those occasions was actually taking some of the cash for herself.
“I hope the sentencing today sends a clear message that we will not stand for this in Lancashire and we will robustly investigate any claims of this nature and will do everything in our power to bring offenders before the courts.
“It has been heartbreaking hearing the testimonies of the victims’ families but I hope the fact Whittaker is now behind bars will bring some closure for them, and will enable them to move forward with their lives.”
A spokesperson for Lifeways said: “Lifeways uncovered what Chelsea Whittaker was doing, and we reported this to the police. We have co-operated fully with the Police throughout their investigation, and totally support the police in the action and decisions they have taken.
“We deeply regret the distress that was caused to the people we support and their families and carers by the criminal actions of Chelsea Whittaker.
“Lifeways have repaid to the victims all the money stolen by Whittaker. We take very seriously our obligations to the people we support and their families and carers, and we have reviewed and further tightened our procedures to prevent any such incidents happening in the future.”