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Suspended sentence for cleaner who stole

Trusting victim was aged 90, court is told

John Garvey

john.garvey@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886628

A CLEANER who tried to swindle a vulnerable 90-year-old has received a suspended prison sentence.

Sophia Maria De Fazio, who runs her own West Berkshire cleaning business, took cheques from her frail employer and tried to cash them herself.

At a previous hearing, Reading magistrates heard how Ms De Fazio, who lives at Ashridge Farm Cottages, Beedon, worked as a cleaner for Ann Elizabeth Page.

Ms Page and her family realised that a total of £1,500 had disappeared from her bank account and subsequent enquiries led police to 31-year-old mother-of-three Ms De Fazio.

Ms De Fazio admitted committing fraud by false representation, once on August 31 last year and again on September 27.

The case was adjourned for reports and at a sentencing hearing on Thursday, January 11, Ms Page told the court in a victim impact statement: “This has affected me physically and emotionally.

“I’ve had to change the locks and keys to my home.

“I put my trust in her and now my trust has been broken.

“I don’t sleep well and feel rather unsettled. It has been stressful, but luckily my family has been so supportive.”

A probation officer told the court: “The defendant had split from her partner and was struggling financially supporting her three children.

“She says she’s extremely remorseful for her actions.

“However she now has more work as a cleaner; she is self-employed and her clients are aware of today’s proceedings.”

Joanne Benn, defending, handed in a client reference – but district judge Shomon Khan pointed out that it did not specify whether the author was indeed aware of Ms De Fazio’s two recent fraud convictions.

Ms Benn told the court: “She has set up in business by herself as a cleaner in the West Berkshire area, rather than rely on benefits.

“Quite simply, she feels awful. She says the complainant was a lovely lady and a family friend.

“She agrees there was absolutely no excuse to take money from an old lady.

“The complainant’s son has contacted her and said that, under no circumstances do they want any further contact with her.”

District judge Khan told Ms De Fazio: “Madam, you’ve committed two offences of fraud against a vulnerable, 90-year-old woman who you worked for.

“This was a significant breach of trust.

“You hoped, because of her age, [Ms Page] wouldn’t detect what you had done.

“Mercifully for her, she was able to detect it and the bank has reimbursed her.

“You caused her emotional harm and she described how much you let her down and how she has lost her faith, not just in you, but in others.

“Clearly these offences are so serious only a custodial sentence can be justified.”

However, said district judge Khan, because of her apparent remorse – and the fact that she has three young children – he was prepared to suspend the jail term.

Accordingly Ms De Fazio was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months.

In addition, she was ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid community work and to pay Ms Page £200 in compensation for her distress.

Finally, the court imposed an indefinite restraining order on Ms De Fazio, preventing her from contacting Ms Page, either directly or indirectly, ever again.

District judge Khan pointed out that the bank had reimbursed the £1,500 to Ms Page, but noted that it had not sought to recoup this sum from Ms De Fazio.

If the bank wished to do so, therefore, it would have to take a civil action against her, he concluded.

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