Redcar grandmother left husband in 'financial ruin' as she sent cash to USA romance scammer

Patricia Passman, 59, stole nearly £50,000 over a two-year period. Credit: Gazette Media/PA

A grandmother who left her estranged husband in "financial ruin" was duped into sending some of her stolen £50,000 on to a romance scammer.

Patricia Passman sent Amazon vouchers and funds to what she believed was an online love interest living in America.

The 59-year-old thought the man she was in contact with would begin a relationship with her, but he was part of an online scam.

On Wednesday 20 July, Teesside Crown Court heard Passman still lived with her husband in 2019, but the couple had split up after 40 years of marriage.

The couple, who have three children and grandchildren, worked together after breaking up as Passman was employed as the company secretary for her husband's business.

Prosecutor Jenny Haigh told the court Passman admitted stealing £22,650 from her husband's personal bank account and £24,050 from his business account.

She was initially charged with stealing more, £35,669 and £33,851 respectively, but the court accepted her guilty plea to the lesser amounts when she produced paperwork showing the transactions she had made.

Ms Haigh said that Passman stole the money from her 66-year-old husband over a two year period from January 2019 to January 2021.

She said the defendant's husband had been left in "financial ruin, with tax bills and accountancy fees to pay" when he thought he had at least £70,000 in his personal account.

Ms Haigh also said the victim's family were concerned about the effect it had had on him.

Passman, now of Coatham Road, in Redcar, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that she had five previous convictions for 12 offences, dating back some years.

Thomas Bennett, defending, said that Passman had admitted she intercepted her husband's bank statements but said that she always ensured there was enough left in the accounts for direct debits.

He added that his client was embarrassed and ashamed of what she had done, describing her as "naive and certainly not streetwise".

"She herself was exploited herself, having fallen victim to an online scam," he said.

Judge Jamie Hill replied: "She thought she'd met a boyfriend online and he was going to have a relationship with her."

Mr Bennett said that the former couple's children were adults and had not suffered from her thefts, and that his client would pay her former husband back if she had the funds to do so.

But the court heard Passman had no assets, works part time and claims Universal Credit.

Her barrister added: "She is the victim of a crime herself, here. She is now rebuilding her relationships with her children and she has caring responsibilities for her grandchildren."

Passman was sentenced to an 18-month prison term, suspended for two years. She was ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work.