A SOCIAL worker who stole more than £90,000 from three vulnerable victims across Cheshire has been jailed.

Karen Kersey-Smith, 47, said the majority of the money she had taken from her victims – two women aged 92 and 86, and a man in his 60s with dementia – was put into charity boxes, mainly for cancer charities, following family trauma.

But financial records showed Kersey-Smith had splashed out on a £4,275 holiday for a family of five in Gran Canaria, and had put a deposit on a £6,480 family trip to Florida before she confessed her crime to her manager Simon Smith, telling him: “I think I have made a terrible mistake.”

Kersey-Smith, of Wheat Close, Gwersyllt, Wrexham, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity to the three theft offences.

Appearing at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday, June 4, Kersey-Smith was jailed for 28 months.

Prosecuting, Chris Hopkins said sadly, two of the three victims had passed away since Kersey-Smith had committed the thefts.

The court heard Kersey-Smith had been a social worker for Cheshire West and Chester Council.

One of the victims, 92-year-old Mary Adamson, had been living in Ellesmere Port and was moved to a care home.

In a victim personal statement, her grand-daughters said they visited her but she seemed very mistrustful and would take her handbag with her everywhere she went. Staff also said she was not eating.

They knew something was not right and even suspected the care staff at the home had been doing something wrong.

But after Ms Adamson passed away, they found a note in her handbag which said her social worker had been stealing from her.

They added they were “so sad that she passed away before her social worker came to trial”, and knowing that she spent her final days in fear in mistrust of those around her.

Kersey-Smith had, in fact, used Ms Adamson’s Post Office and bank accounts to steal £41,494.38 between November 2015 and September 2017, making numerous withdrawals at ATMs and post offices in Chester, Wrexham, Ellesmere Port and Neston.

A second victim, William Finter, had been staying at Atherton Lodge Care Home in Ellesmere Port in 2016. He had dementia.

Kersey-Smith used his bank card to make dozens of withdrawals between June 2016 and September 2017, stealing a total of £21,191.86.

Sadly, Mr Finter had since passed away, the court heard.

A third victim was an 86-year-old woman who had been living at a home in the Neston area before having to sell to move into a care home.

She had arthritis and macular degeneration. In her victim impact statement, she said Kersey-Smith was “her eyes” and “entrusted her”.

Kersey-Smith had access to her bank card, which was to be used to buy small grocery items, such as a sandwich.

Instead, Kersey-Smith stole £27,642.74 from the vulnerable victim’s account.

The victim, now 88, said in a victim impact statement: “It has highlighted how vulnerable I am. I can’t escape the fact that this could happen again.”

She added Kersey-Smith’s actions were “such a betrayal”.

In total, Kersey-Smith had stolen £90,328.95 from her victims, whom Judge Simon Berkson remarked were “the most vulnerable in society.”

None of the victims or their families had been reimbursed.

Kersey-Smith was of previous good character, the court heard.

Defending, Patrick Williamson said prior to the offences, Kersey-Smith had had an exemplary career for 18 years, before what could be described as “a breakdown”, where she acted out of character.

She had previously been diagnosed with anxiety and had family trauma with a relative being diagnosed with cancer.

She said the majority of the money stolen was put into charity boxes, but accepted £4k had been spent on a family holiday and thousands of pounds had been spent on groceries.

She had sought to make amends by helping others in the community, and had most recently been helping with food distribution during the coronavirus pandemic.

She added: “I am mortified, ashamed and disgusted by my actions.”

Mr Williamson added it was Kersey-Smith who had admitted one of the offences by confessing to her employer.

Judge Berkson told Kersey-Smith: “I make it clear at the outset the appropriate punishment is by one of an immediate custodial sentence.

“You had a position of trusted care for many years with responsibility for the old and infirm.

“You took advantage of that position when, over a sustained period of time, you stole thousands and thousands of pounds.

“This has affected their lives and also their families. They have not got their money back.

“You say the majority has been spent on cancer charity boxes, your family having suffered from this terrible disease.

“Those were not your monies to take. It caused great emotional distress to those victims.

“There is substantial mitigation – your guilty plea and remorse. You have had difficulties with bereavements and your mental health has suffered.”

Judge Berkson sentenced Kersey-Smith to 28 months in prison, with a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing to follow.