Thorntons paralegal who embezzled more than £40,000 from deceased woman’s account jailed

A paralegal who embezzled more than £40,000 from the estate of her ex-husband’s great aunt has been sentenced to 13 months in jail. Alison Jackson, 44, who was employed by Thorntons, was caught when the firm audited the accounts of her clients, finding one deceased client’s account had been used to pay for two different funerals. Ms Jackson admitted she used cash from a family to pay for the funeral of Lillian Grant, whose account she then stole from. She was granted power of attorney in 2006 after Mrs Grant began suffering from dementia. She took sums ranging from £20 to £2,000. Following Mrs Grant’s death in 2012, Ms Jackson gave her former husband £1,500, saying that was all that remained of his great aunt’s estate. However, there were tens of thousands of pounds in the account, which Ms Jackson used to settle payday loan debts. The former paralegal also failed to inform the Cadbury pension scheme, which made payouts to Mrs Grant as her late husband had been an employee of the chocolate company, of Mrs Grant’s death, meaning it continued to pay cash into her pension pot. Ms Jackson had this money transferred to her own account for nearly three years after Mrs Grant’s death. She pleaded guilty to two charges of embezzlement and one of fraud. At her sentencing hearing, depute fiscal Eilidh Robertson told Dundee Sheriff Court: “Mrs Grant passed away at the age of 98 and had been living in a care home since 2010 and was suffering from dementia. “The Jackson family had been happy for the accused to have power of attorney given the expertise she had gained through her employment. “The accused had unfettered access to Mrs Grant’s bank account through her role as power of attorney. “From October 24 2010 on the accused gradually began to transfer money from Mrs Grant’s bank account to her own personal account. “This continued after Mrs Grant passed away. “The sum has never been repaid and should have been passed on to her former mother-in-law, Marion Jackson, following Mrs Grant’s death. “The accused was spending a significant sum on payday loans, credit cards and store cards to numerous different lenders every month. “Mrs Grant had received a monthly pension from Cadbury since 1989 resulting from her late husband’s employment with them. “She failed to notify them that Mrs Grant had died so they continued to pay the pension monthly until they were informed by police Mrs Grant had passed away almost three years ago. “She continued her employment at Thornton’s whilst embezzling from Mrs Grant. “Various complaints were made about her work and she went on sick leave in March 2014 before resigning and a full audit was undertaken. “During that it was noted one of her executry accounts had two withdrawals, both covering the cost of a funeral. “Thinking this strange the tax accountant working on it found that the money had been paid for Mrs Grant’s funeral. “She had accounted for the loss in value to the estate by telling its beneficiaries that the value of shares owned by the estate was lower than it in fact was. The firm reimbursed the family. Solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin, defending, said Ms Jackson had managed to pay back £21,000 of the cash and pointed out that Mrs Grant’s family did not want Ms Jackson to go to prison. Mr Gilmartin said: “This was an unsophisticated attempt at a fraudulent act and she had little or no prospect of being successful. “The Crown accepts the money was not to fund an extravagant lifestyle. “It would obviously be preferable for her if a non-custodial disposal could be found. But she accepts she has put herself in this position.” Sheriff Alastair Carmichael sentenced Ms Jackson to jail for a total of 13 months, reduced from 18 months due to her early guilty plea. A spokesperson for Thorntons told Scottish Legal News: “We are relieved to see this case concluded for everyone concerned. “It was close supervision from a partner that alerted them to irregularities in the work of our former employee. After some investigation, we had no option but to report the matter to the police.”

Share icon
Share this article: