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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham man defrauded his mother

A 63-year-old man Cheltenham man who defrauded his own mother out of more than £13,350 when he had power of attorney over her affairs has received a 12 month suspended prison sentence as well as being ordered to repay back the funds to her estate.

Prosecutor Michael Hall told Gloucester Crown Court on Friday (November 3) that Paul Ovenden, of Cirencester Road, Charlton Kings, abused his trusted position in charge of his mother Angela's affairs when he got control of her Lloyds Bank account.

The prosecutor said: "Mrs Ovenden suffered from dementia and was living in a residential home in Abingdon throughout the period from February 2018 to March 2020."

"She had all her immediate care needs met and there was very little expenditure on her behalf.

"But whilst in this position Ovenden made a number of withdrawals which he shouldn't have done and were effectively for his personal benefit. From June 2019, he embarked on a series of transactions, simply by transferring cash into his own account.

"The amount of money he obtained this way was £45,595. However, a basis of plea was submitted, and this identified a number of legitimate transactions which needed to be deducted from that figure.

"However an additional sum of £3,177.40 was transferred to Ovenden's bank account after his mother had died. This would have been after the expiry of the power of attorney. Ovenden initially claimed this was to pay for her funeral costs.

"But the lawyer handling Mrs Ovenden's estate spotted this claim as the solicitors had already paid the funeral expenses.

"Therefore, the correct figure Ovenden embezzled from his mother's estate after legitimate expenditure had been deducted is £34,853, plus the £3,177.40 funeral costs."

The court was told that Ovenden was one of four siblings and was due to inherit £24,680 from his parents' estate. The total net loss to the estate is £13,350. He was the only sibling with the power of attorney.

The court heard that Ovenden had whittled the money away, mainly to prop up his self-employed business, which had an erratic cash flow.

Jason Coulter defending added: "Overden was effectively servicing his own business debts with funds from his mother's account. He bitterly regrets this decision now.

"But whilst Ovenden took some time to come to terms with his offending, his mother was not affected by his dishonesty. Everything that she wanted or needed was provided for.

"Ovenden was the only one of the four brothers taking an interest in his mother's welfare, making weekly visits, which he found dispiriting because she didn't know who he was or why he was coming to see her. He found this distressing.

"He decided to take an advance the money he was due to inherit from his mother's estate. In taking it early he overdrew on this amount quite considerably and that decision has landed him at this court. He made no attempt to disguise what he'd done. And the amount he alleged he paid for the funeral costs was always going to come to light.

"He hopes to repay the estate the monies due, but this is largely subject to the sale of his own house, which has been on the market for a year. It will be put up for sale at an auction at a vastly reduced price and he will eventually receive 37.5 percent of the proceeds, from which he will be able to discharge his commitment to this court."

Ovenden admitted fraud by abuse of position, namely power of attorney, in which he was expected to safeguard the financial interests of Mrs Ovenden, but dishonestly made a financial gain of £10,177, between February 26, 2018 and March 13, 2020.

Recorder Patrick Mason told Ovenden: "The prospect that you face a prison sentence must have been terrifying for you, but you brought this on yourself by abusing a position of trust.

"The process of granting the power of attorney is a rigorous process because it gives people a great deal of power over the estate and welfare of the individual concerned. You were placed in that position and you abused it.

"I accept you were not living a lavish lifestyle, but you were diverting funds to continue to lead the lifestyle you normally had. You knew very well that you shouldn't have been doing that.

"I wonder what your mother would have felt about the situation, had she had known. Thankfully her condition meant that she didn't know anything about what was going on in the background.

"You profited to the tune of £10,177 and lied about a further £3, 177 for funeral expenses. I accept you are now remorseful about your actions."

The judge sentenced Ovenden to a 12 month prison term, suspended for 18 months and ordered him to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £13.350 compensation to Mrs Ovenden's estate.

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