Builder who scammed £100,000 from his disabled mother-in-law jailed

Builder who scammed £100,000 from his disabled mother-in-law’s life-savings after she gave him her bank card to help with weekly shopping is jailed for two years

  • Victim Vera Wilson, 82, gave her son-in-law her bank card to help with shopping
  • But after she moved into a care home, Francis Farnan, 63, started stealing cash
  • He opened up bank account in her name, forged her signature and bled her dry
  • Farnan pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and has now been jailed for two-and-a-half years 

A builder who scammed almost £100,000 of life-savings from his disabled mother-in-law after she became ill has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Francis Farnan, 63, from Dover, Kent set up a Post Office account in Vera Wilson’s name, forged her signature and spread money around various accounts hoping it would go undetected.

The 82-year-old had given him her bank card so he would help her with shopping after she suffered a fall. 

But after she was moved into a nursing home the thief executed a ‘sophisticated’ ploy to bleed her dry. 

Farnan deposited money in the account and systematically withdrew cash on several occasions to prop up his construction company.

Francis Farnan, 63, scammed his disabled mother-in-law. At Canterbury Crown Court last Thursday, Farnan was jailed for two-and-a-half years

One of the cheques Farnan wrote to himself was for just over £46,000 and bank documents belonging to Ms Wilson were found at his home. 

Bank statements showed transactions – which the victim had been unaware had taken place – were made over a two-year period between April 2016 and October 2018.

But he was eventually caught after stealing £92,388 when a member of Ms Wilson’s family took his concerns about the withdrawals to police.

At Canterbury Crown Court last Thursday, Farnan was jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Judge Rupert Lowe described the scam as a ‘breach of a high degree of trust’ where Farnan deliberately targeted his victim because of her vulnerability.

He said: ‘This was a woman entirely in your hands who put her money entirely in your hands and trusted you.

‘Secondly this was sophisticated offending, it was setting up a Post Office account, forging signatures and moving money between accounts over two years. And you did target the victim on the basis of vulnerability.’

Prosecutor Iestyn Morgan said Farnan, who has 37 previous convictions including fraud and theft Ms Wilson told police her son-in-law had no authority to take cash apart from helping with the weekly shop.

Farnan pleaded guilty to three counts of theft at a previous hearing but argued he had fallen on hard times and intended to pay the money back.

His barrister Paul Jackson explained Farnan was ‘deeply remorseful and ashamed’ and used the cash to prop up his building business after contracting arthritis, drowning out the pain with alcohol.

He then became an alcoholic which he has since addressed, but tried to argue he should not be sent to prison because health problems make him more prone to coronavirus, which is rife in HMP Elmley in Kent.

But Judge Lowe activated a 12-week suspended prison sentence for a drink-driving offence but allowed it to run concurrently given the conditions inside the prison.

He said: ‘This case concerns three offences of theft of money from a vulnerable old lady, your mother-in-law who is called Vera Wilson and is over 80-years-old with limited mobility and living in assisted living residence.

‘Like many people of her age and disability she had to have others look after her including her daughter Sharon, your wife, who would go on a Wednesday to take money out.

‘And then in March 2016 Ms Wilson went into a nursing home and her bank card came to your possession and you started to become really quite involved in Vera’s life in the two-and-a-half years.’

Detective Constable Matthew Herriott, of Kent Police, said Farnan left Ms Wilson close to being penniless.

He said: ‘Without their vigilance, the defendant would have continued to deplete the victim’s savings.

‘Francis Farnan stole in excess of £92,000, leaving his victim, an elderly and vulnerable lady, close to being penniless.

‘I can only hope that the sentence is long enough for him to reflect on the trust that he breached, and the lives that he has affected, and return from prison a rehabilitated man.

‘I would also take this opportunity to urge anyone who suspects that their loved ones are being defrauded or stolen from to contact Kent Police so that we can catch offenders and safeguard the vulnerable.’

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