Diane Clara Ross, 51, was charged with theft over $5,000 and sentenced in Pictou provincial court Thursday to a conditional discharge. Conditions of the discharge stipulate that she serve three years’ probation and make restitution for the money taken out of her mother’s account.
Crown attorney Patrick Young said RCMP was first notified by a local bank in October 2016 of irregularities in the victim’s account.
The bank informed police that the victim’s daughter had opened a credit card in the elderly woman’s name and obtained another card herself since she held power of attorney. The bank said the card had been maxed out and there were a number of purchases on it that were not from the victim, who is currently in a nursing home.
The bank estimated a total of $90,000 was removed from the victim’s account since 2013.
Young said the police contacted Ross and brought her to the detachment as part of the investigation. It recorded their conversation but she was not placed under arrest at the time. An official statement was taken at a later date.
Ross told police she was in financial hardship after the death of her husband and had home renovations to pay. She said she used her power of attorney for her mother to obtain funds, but she told her mother she was borrowing the money.
Young said the purchases ranged from household items to coffee at Tim Hortons. Ross also told police she knew what she was doing was wrong and estimated she probably took $100,000 from the account.
RCMP also took a statement from Ross’s mother who told police her daughter didn’t have permission to take money from account but if she did take it, it must have been for a good reason.
Police said the victim was not in good health and didn’t seem to have a good appreciation of the circumstances. She did tell police that Ross was her only relative and sole heir to her estate.
Young presented a joint recommendation to the court on behalf of the Crown and defence that called for a conditional discharge that included three years’ probation and two separate restitution orders.
He said Ross breached her mother’s trust and pilfered a large amount of money from her own inheritance.
The statement from the elderly victim was also a concern for the Crown because although she told police she didn’t have a problem with what her daughter did, she seemed unclear about the circumstances involving the case, including how much money was taken and how much was actually in her bank account.
Young also criticized the police for doing a “lousy job” of taking statements from both Ross and the victim to the point that, if the case went to trial, he said he was unsure if he could admit them into evidence.
A stand-alone restitution order for $90,000 was part of the sentence but Ross must also make payments of $329 a month for the next three years through the court to her mother for a total of $11,844. This is money the elderly woman would have received in relation to her late husband’s service payments.
Young pointed out that if one payment is missed, Ross could be held in breach and the conditional discharge could be revoked.
Judge Del Atwood agreed with the joint recommendation stating that it was a large amount of money and trust was breached, but felt this is something Ross will not repeat so public interest isn’t jeopardized by ordering a conditional discharge.
The sentencing range for such a charge extends from a conditional discharge to 10 years in prison. In addition, he said, the discharge will also allow Ross to continue with her career as an educator.
Ross has also been removed as power of attorney for her mother in regard to all financial matters.