Man jailed for 'wicked' act spending mother's legacy

South Wales Argus: Pictured arriving at Cardiff Crown Court is Stephen Watkins up for fraud by abuse of position, when £50,000 was stolen from his mother. (4015038) Pictured arriving at Cardiff Crown Court is Stephen Watkins up for fraud by abuse of position, when £50,000 was stolen from his mother. (4015038)

A NEWPORT man was jailed after pleading guilty to spending tens of thousands of pounds of his mother’s money which was bequeathed to charity.

Stephen Watkins’ years of fraudulent spending habits using his role as power of attorney, only came to light after his mother’s death in 2012.

The 58-year-old of Aberthaw Drive, had pleaded guilty to all three counts of fraud against him on January 10 and had been committed to Cardiff Crown court for his sentencing.

The court heard how Patricia Watkins died in February 2012, aged 91 after spending the last years of her life in a nursing home, suffering with dementia.

Due to her deteriorating health, Watkins and his brother Lynn were granted power of attorney over their mother’s account. Only Watkins had control of the account, with a debit card, cash card and cheque book in his name.

Prosecuting, John Probert said the total amount wrongly withdrawn from the account was £47,663 over a period of more than four years – from July 2007 to February 2012. Watkins claimed only a portion of this was for his own use.

A sibling discovered discrepancies in the account after their mother’s death, leading Watkins to confess what he had done to his family and six siblings. A police inquiry followed and Watkins was arrested in November 2012.

The prosecution said cheques had been made out to Watkins’ daughter and £4,000 in cheques had been made out to Lynn Watkins, his wife and children. In addition, £34,710 in cash was withdrawn from the account.

Defending, Claire Pickwell said: “He’s not asking to blame other members of the family. It’s abundantly clear other members of the family have benefitted from this.”

Ms Pickwell said Watkins had begun using the money after his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and he was forced to give up employment to become her carer. She said the items purchased were not “frivolous” but everyday expenses like car repairs or insurance.

Patrica Watkins made a will which stated specific items of value to be given to individuals but for the balance of her estate to be distributed between three charities – the NSPCC, the RSPCA and the Royal Air force Benevolent Fund.

On sentencing, Judge Malcolm Bishop QC said:”It’s very sad to see someone of your mature years and good character in this situation. But you must know what you did was extremely wicked.

“I accept an amount was given to your family but neither you nor they had any right to that money. As a result, three charities have been deprived of a substantial legacy.”

Watkins was sentenced to two years in total, half of which will be served in custody and the other in the community.

No compensation order was made.

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