An Illawarra Retirement Trust worker and problem gambler has admitted fleecing more than $1,000 from a 94-year-old resident after she was caught on camera using his debit card to buy groceries, cigarettes and gift vouchers.
Elizabeth Payne was given a thorough dressing down in Wollongong Local Court on Tuesday, with Magistrate Mark Douglass describing her behaviour in April this year as a "low act".
Documents tendered to the court reveal the victim was admitted to Wollongong Hospital on April 2, at which time IRT staff secured his wallet for safe keeping.
The man's daughter, who is her father's power of attorney, contacted IRT on April 17 saying her father's wallet hadn't been returned to him and that she had noticed many unauthorised purchases had been made on his Visa debit card.
The matter was report to police, who launched an investigation.
Officers traced many of the unapproved transactions to businesses in Unanderra and upon viewing CCTV footage of each purchase, were able to identify Payne as the culprit by her distinctive neck and hand tattoos.
Court documents said Payne used the victim's blue-coloured debit card to buy a total of $300 worth of cash vouchers from the Westside Petroleum service station in multiple transactions between April 16 and 19.
Meanwhile, she spent $736 on groceries, cigarettes and more vouchers at Woolworths in Unanderra in multiple, separate purchases between April 6 and 18.
The court heard Payne's daughter and defacto partner work at Woolworths and some of the transactions were recorded on the family's employee discount card.
Payne was arrested at her Princes Highway home on April 28.
She denied the charges during an interview with police, claiming she had never used the victim's debit card and had only ever used her own pink-coloured credit card during the transactions.
She offered no explanation when shown video footage of her using a blue credit card.
Payne was charged with three counts of dishonestly obtaining property by deception.
She pleaded guilty to the charges in court on Tuesday, with defence lawyer Melea Mullard saying Payne was full of remorse and regret for her actions.
"She says it should never have happened, it was a crime of opportunity and she's extremely remorseful," Ms Mullard said.
"She was using her wage to support her gambling addiction rather than buying groceries for her family, so she used the victim's card to buy those groceries."
Ms Mullard confirmed Payne had been stood down from her job pending the outcome of the court proceedings but said the 37-year-old was "under no illusion" she wouldn't be working in the aged care industry again.
Magistrate Douglass said Payne's crimes had been for personal gain and represented a great breach of trust put in her by her employer and the victim.
"The card was used again and again over many days," he said.
"She had a lot of time to think during that time whether she wanted to be that type of person.
"The community sees these particular types of offences as being a low act - this is a low act.
"Gambling is just not a justification to take from this person as she did."
Magistrate Douglass said the court needed to record a conviction against Payne to act as a warning beacon for future employers.
"The criminality in my view is not towards the bottom end of range, it's perhaps towards the mid-range," he said.
"The court would be negligent if it didn't record a conviction for others to see."
Payne was sentenced to an 18-month community corrections order, with 200 hours of unpaid community service work.