Grandfather loses nest egg to single mum
A YOUNG mother stole more than $50,000 from her elderly grandfather after he opened his home to her and her son.
Over three years Cruise Taylor Sharni Brice helped herself to 77-year-old's bank card withdrawing money at night clubs across Cairns and making cash deposits into her own account.
She spent $52,174.15 across 159 transaction. It was money he had been relying on in his retirement. The Cairns District Court was told she had no capacity to pay it back and no order was made.
Chief Judge Kerry O'Brien said it was a significant breach of trust and jailed Brice for two years and nine months, suspended on November 28 this year.
Acting Senior Sergeant Stephen Lauder said her grandfather had invited Brice into his home. In 2016 he found out he only had $140 left in his account.
"When he collected three years' worth of statements, he could see there were amounts withdrawn at nightclubs around town, so Gilligans, the Woolshed," Snr Sgt Lauder said.
"He knew his card had gone missing but he hadn't put two and two together."
Large cash amounts up to $500 and $800 were also taken out. He matched withdrawals from his account into deposits into her after finding some of her bank statements around the house.
Brice also bought food, phone recharges and general living expenses with his money.
"So she was living off his money for about three years until he noticed," Snr Sgt Lauder said.
"She didn't have a gambling problem, she had no health issues, she's just spent it across a three-year period on whatever she wanted to."
Snr Sgt Lauder said her grandfather had been left devastated. "She couldn't believe that his family had done it to him," he said.
Brice, now 27, pleaded guilty to fraud. She has spent 93 days in pre-sentence custody.
Defence barrister Stephanie Williams said Brice, a single mother, had been struggling with money and then her actions spun out of control.
"She accepts the facts in their entirety and is deeply ashamed with what she has done to her grandfather," Ms Williams said.
The court was told that Brice had a troubled upbringing stemming from her own mother's mental health. She left home at 14 and lived with a family friend.
Ms Williams said Brice had suffered from depression since she was 14 and had post-partum depression after the birth of her son.
The court was told that Brice had a strong work ethic when she had work available to her.
Chief Judge O'Brien accepted that Brice had shown remorse by an early plea of guilty and co-operation with police.