Man convicted of theft - Newbury

02/12/2013

A man appeared at Oxford Crown Court today, Monday, 02 December 2013, and was convicted of stealing £154,000 from a woman while acting as her power of attorney.

John Irvine Morgan, aged 75, from Highclere Gardens, Wantage, was found guilty of the theft after a six day trial.  He will be sentenced at Oxford Crown Court on Friday, 10 January 2014.

From January 2004 to January 2012, Morgan acted as power of attorney to 92-year-old Beryl Gittens, from Newbury, as her husband had passed away and her only son lived in Australia.  Morgan was a trusted friend of the family, a Conservative district councillor, and vice-chairman of the planning committee for Vale of the White Horse Council, as well as serving on Wantage District Council.

When Beryl passed away on 30 January 2012, other family members became suspicious as to what had happened to her money, as she had previously sold her house and the money from the sale, which had been under Morgan's control, was now missing and could not be accounted for.

The matter was reported to Thames Valley Police in July 2012 and an investigation was launched, during which a forensic accountant determined that £154,000 was missing and had been stolen by the defendant and spent by him, and not in the best interests of the victim.

Morgan was subsequently arrested and charged on 07 March 2013.

Ruth Bowskill, Temporary Chief Crown Prosecutor for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said: "This case involved the theft of in excess of £150k between 2004-2012 from 92-year-old Beryl Gittens by a so called trusted friend.

"John Morgan abused his friendship with Beryl and his appointment as her Power of Attorney for his own financial gain. His actions were pre-meditated and motivated by pure greed. Not content with stealing her assets, Morgan continued to steal her pension money, which was to supplement the council's contributions to her care home. He is undoubtedly an extremely dishonest, calculated, and self-indulgent man.

"Beryl was known to be very careful with her money and had amassed significant savings, which were to be left to her son, who lived in Australia. She was left overdrawn, in debt to the Local Authority, and with no money to pay for a funeral meaning she had to have a 'paupers' funeral.

"We have a duty to protect the vulnerable members of our society. The CPS takes the criminal mistreatment of vulnerable people extremely seriously and built a strong case to present the court with the full extent of the offending.

"This case should give victims the confidence to speak up. Victims should not hesitate to report trust cons to the police, so that they can be prosecuted appropriately in order to prevent further victims being preyed upon.

2This case also sends a clear message to those involved in this kind of criminality that we will robustly prosecute them to ensure that justice is done.

"I would like to pay tribute to Beryl's family for their wholehearted support of this investigation and the dignity they have displayed while hearing the upsetting details of how she was taken advantage of and left destitute by a friend.

"We have worked closely with Thames Valley Police since the investigation was launched and as a result of the hard work and diligence of the prosecution team, a just outcome has been achieved.

"I hope that today's conviction brings Beryl's family and true friends at least a small sense that justice has been done. Our thoughts are very much with them at this time."

Detective Sergeant Rachel Jackson, investigating the offence, said: "Not only did Morgan defraud a vulnerable and elderly woman of a vast amount of money from the sale of her house, he also used his position on the council to arrange home care for her, lying about the victim's financial affairs to cover the fact he had stolen all her savings.

"Despite pleading not guilty to the offence, a jury saw through his lies and found him guilty of stealing from the victim, who thought he was a family friend and trusted him implicitly."