A man from Worthing who stole more than £100,000 from his sister has been jailed.
Graeme Brooker, 54, of Vale Avenue in Worthing, was sentenced to three years in prison at Chichester Crown Court on Friday (13 January) having been found guilty of two counts of theft.
Sussex Police say Brooker had power of attorney over his sister, Cheryl, who had been left physically and mentally impaired following a series of strokes.
After taking over Cheryl’s finances in early 2013, Brooker transferred £139,833 from her accounts to himself. He labelled them as payments for routine items such as ‘laundry’ or ‘shopping’.
He also claimed carer’s allowance totalling more than £11,500, claiming he was unable to work due to providing unpaid care for his sister.
In her victim impact statement, Cheryl said: “How could I not see what my own brother was doing? I lie awake at night and the thought is stuck in my head like a sore tooth, something you can’t help but go back to and prod even though doing so causes pain.
“Graeme started stealing from me not long after the strokes struck. What if the strokes took more from me than I thought? Is that why I never knew what he was doing? How much of the ‘me’ that I thought I was is left?
“The betrayal of trust has hit me hard, and in ways I was not expecting. I have to trust others more than most people do. There's a lot that I can't do for myself. But someone I trusted with everything, someone I had every reason to trust, used that trust against me. So I can’t trust.”
Brooker’s crimes were discovered by family members following a civil dispute between Cheryl and himself.
Cheryl had sold her own house to fund the building of a house for her to live in in Brooker’s garden.
Sussex Police say Brooker refused to allow her to move in unless she signed a contract giving him control over who visited and stipulating the property would become his upon her death.
The housing dispute and thefts left Cheryl homeless and penniless, the force added.
In addition to the custodial sentence, an application has been made under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the stolen money to reimburse Cheryl.
Passing sentence, Judge Arnold said he had taken Cheryl’s wishes to protect her brother, who she still loved, into account.
Investigating officer Detective Sergeant Noel Simmonds said: “Graeme Brooker’s campaign of betrayal towards his own sister, from whom he stole such large amounts of money, showed a pattern of callous dishonesty.
“In this case Brooker’s defence team provided a selection of witness testimonies all vouching for his trustworthiness – a strategy that ultimately failed to convince a jury.
“Frauds of this nature come from a perpetrator’s ability to groom, isolate and convince their victims.
“Sadly there are no reliable ways to distinguish between people that are genuinely acting in your interests and those that are trying to gain and abuse your trust.
“Having multiple people with power of attorney, with a majority vote needed for any major decisions, makes it a lot more difficult for fraudsters to operate as long, and steal as much, as Brooker.”