A female disability worker has been jailed for stealing jewellery and cash from her disabled and terminally ill patients.
47-year-old Violeta Hansen appeared before Burwood Local Court charged with 15 fraud related charges.
She was sentenced to an overall term of imprisonment of 24 months.
The presiding Magistrate was scathing in his remarks on sentence, labelling Hansen's actions, “opportunistic, brazen and discreditable”.
Between December 2018 and October 2019, Hansen stole numerous items from those she was tasked with caring for.
The Blacktown resident was employed by a number of disability support agencies. As part of her role, she would attend the homes of the terminally ill and people with disabilities.
While at their homes she stole over $40,000 worth of cash and jewellery including two 9ct gold bracelets worth a total of $300, a pair of gold earrings worth $100, a 14ct gold ring with sapphire stone and diamond worth $500 and an 18ct gold and silver solitaire wedding ring worth $1000.
Police initially alleged that many of the items held significant sentimental value to the owners and were family heirlooms. Amongst the items were four diamond rings, a gold sapphire ring, a watch, two wedding bands, two gold chains and a diamond pendant.
Hansen stole precious heirlooms including gold, diamond and sapphire rings, some of which were from deceased family members, from people in Wiley Park, Bexley, Drummoyne and Doonside.
She would then sell the items to pawn brokers for cash.
Officers from Campsie, Burwood and Blacktown Police Area Command commenced an investigation which culminated in Hansen's arrest at a pawn shop in Blacktown Westpoint Shopping Centre at 2.20pm on 10 October 2020.
The Blacktown woman was initially charged with 22 counts of theft and making false or misleading statements.
Following negotiations with the prosecution, she ultimately pleaded guilty to 10 charges of steal from dwelling, with another 8 charges of making a false statement taken into account on a ‘Form 1'.
Why did she do it?
The Court heard that Hansen migrated to Australia at the age of 12. Because of her limited English, she was ostracised in school and remained isolated for most of her childhood.
She was married later in life, but that did not last. The breakdown of her marriage left her with a child to take care of on her own as the father of her child left and was “never to be seen from again”.
The result was that she had limited skills and was financially illiterate. The mounting costs of raising a child in western Sydney along with growing bills and loans left her in a dire pecuniary position.
Rather than seek help from friends or family members, she fell into a classic trap of “biting off more than you can chew…(and) putting her head in the sand”, her fraud lawyers said.
A psychiatric report was commissioned for the sentence proceedings which diagnosed the Blacktown resident with depression and adjustment disorder.
However, that would not be enough to spare her a jail term.
Charges of Making a False Statement
Hansen's charges for making false statements related to her telling pawn brokers and second-hand dealers that the items she had stolen were hers.
In order to prove a Make False Statement charge, the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt that:
- The Accused made a statement; and
- That statement was false or misleading; and
- The making the statement was dishonest; and
- The Accused had the intent to obtain property belonging to another; or obtain a financial advantage or cause a financial disadvantage
Section 192G of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) sets out the definition of making a false statement. It requires the Accused to have an intention to obtain property belonging to another or gaining a financial advantage or causing a disadvantage.
There are also many defences to a charge of making a false statement. Amongst them, the most common one is the defence of ‘honest and reasonable mistake'.
This can be raised when an Accused held a genuine belief that was reasonable as to the veracity of the statement.
Sentencing for Making False Statement charges
Upon her arrest, Hansen was bail refused and spent 16 days in custody before being granted bail.
Her Burwood Criminal Lawyers asked the Court to take this time into account in sentencing her.
Magistrate Theo Tsavdaridis presided over the sentencing hearing and described single mother's offending as, “opportunistic, brazen and discreditable…After ingratiating herself with various persons whose care she was tasked to oversee, she exploited a multitude of vulnerable people with significant mental and somatic-related afflictions and disabilities”.
The agreed facts detailed that the victims were all aged in their late 60s and 70s and suffering illnesses such as lung cancer, quadriplegia, prostate cancer and acquired brain injuries.
Indeed, it was because they had these illnesses that Hansen was able to enter their homes and have access to the items she stole. Her role as a carer with various organisations provided her with the opportunity to commit the crimes.
Hansen's criminal lawyers for making false statement charges asked the Court to impose a non-custodial penalty.
They proposed an intensive corrections order, suggesting that it would satisfy community safety and rehabilitate Hansen's financial mismanagement.
But Magistrate Tsavdaridis was not persuaded, noting that the abuse of trust and her position required the Court to give full weight to the “substantial emotional harm” suffered by the vulnerable victims as well as the disability support industry.
He sentenced her to a maximum term of imprisonment of 24 months with a non-parole period of 16 months. She will be eligible for parole on February 5, 2022.
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