Hospital worker stole thousands from elderly patients
A thieving nurse aide targeted elderly hospital patients, using their debit cards to purchase thousands of dollars in food and cigarettes, a court has heard.
Ipswich Magistrates Court heard the woman claimed she was cash strapped at the time of her offending.
All of the victims were patients in Brisbane's Greenslopes Private Hospital, on Newdegate St, Greenslopes.
One of the patients has since died.
Irene Alexandra Fraser, 59, from Collingwood Park, pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing; and 72 counts of committing fraud by dishonestly using the stolen cards.
Prosecutor Sergeant Rose Molinaro said Fraser stole the bankcards belonging to a 95-year old man, a 71-year-old man and an 86-year-old woman between July and October 2019, fraudulently using the cards for transactions multiple times at Ripley, Redbank Plains and in Brookwater.
The court heard Fraser had no criminal history.
"She was employed as a nurse's assistant at Greenslopes private hospital," Sgt Molinaro said.
"The offences between July 3 and July 15 were committed by a person pictured wearing a distinctive hat with floral patterns.
"She denied ownership but it was found by police in her washing machine. The gentleman is now deceased."
Sgt Molinaro said the Suncorp credit card belonging to the 86-year-old woman was found cut up inside Fraser's wheelie bin.
Fraser claimed she had found the card at Springfield, but checks revealed the victim had been a patient at Greenslopes Private Hospital, the court heard.
The 71-year-old victim was being treated for a degenerative brain condition when his card was stolen.
"The victims were vulnerable and easily identified as such, making it more serious," Sgt Molinaro said.
"It was a gross invasion of the rights of elderly people to feel safe and secure in a hospital setting. This breach of trust is concerning.
"She admits she used the cards to buy cigarettes and groceries. She says her wages were insufficient."
Sgt Molinaro said $1654.15 was spent on the card of the female victim, with the total amount of the frauds reaching $2544.61.
The banks had since reimbursed their clients, and were looking to recover their losses from Fraser.
Defence lawyer Matthew Fairclough said Fraser was in financial difficulties at the time after her contract with Queensland Health ended.
He said she was struggling on her wages from her Greenslopes job, which she claimed were not enough to cover mortgage and living expenses.
He said the Argentine born woman had worked in assistant nursing for 35 years, and has three adult children.
"Her offending clearly represents a breach of trust. It could be described as opportunistic, unsophisticated, and it would inevitably be detected," Mr Fairclough said.
"Her references speak of her shame at her conduct. She got to her age with an unblemished history."
Magistrate Terry Duroux noted Fraser's significant financial issues at the time, which she did not discuss with her family.
"It was a significant breach of trust, particularly working in the field you are in," Mr Duroux said.
"They were elderly people, vulnerable people who were in hospital in need of care."
He said Fraser had written a letter of apology that shows insight of her shameful and unlawful conduct, saying that it "left her humiliated and embarrassed."
He sentenced Fraser to concurrent six month jail terms, immediately suspended for 18 months. A conviction was recorded, and Fraser was ordered to pay compensation to the two banks involved.