Woman told to repay money taken from dementia victim

Court House-general 3A woman who had used a dementia patient’s chequebook to write herself nine cheques totalling $23,500 was sentenced to community work and supervision.

In the Christchurch District Court Judge Brian Callaghan said Cheree Margaret Freitas, 26, was relied on to help an 88-year-old man with housework and chores. She took advantage of his age, health, and declining memory issues, when he could not do anything about the offending.

Defence counsel Teresa Penman said Freitas had written an apology email to the victim’s daughter, but the daughter did not want to attend a restorative justice meeting.

She said Freitas had no assets or resources, but had offered to pay reparation at $100 a week, and was committed to paying the money back.

Freitas’ pre-sentence report said the fraud offending was inexplicable, out of character, and it was her first offence. It said she was a low risk of harm to others.

Ms Penman said the victim was vulnerable, and Freitas was in a position of trust with access to his cheque book. He has died and may not have been aware of the offending, but his daughter brought it to the attention of the police. Freitas was extremely remorseful, she said.

Judge Callaghan said Freitas copied the victim’s signature on nine cheques between November 2015 and February 2016. He said the temptation had been too much for her, and she was greedy and took advantage.

He said he had confidence that she had learnt her lesson and would pay back the money. He sentenced her to 250 hours’ community work, six months’ supervision with treatment and counselling as directed by her probation officer, and reparation of $23,500.


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