Woman jailed for fraud after spending mother-in-law’s money on hotels and gym membership

Court news
Court news

A woman who defrauded her widowed mother-in-law out of thousands of pounds, spending it on hotel bills and gym membership, has been jailed for 15 months at Lincoln Crown Court.

Sharon Johnson, 47, of Station Street, Rippingale, had offered to assist with financial matters following the death of her father-in-law in 2012 and it was agreed that £56,000 due from a life insurance policy should be paid into Johnson’s own account so that she could manage it for her mother-in-law.

Johnson admitted a charge of fraud between October 11, 2012 and December 15, 2016, on the basis that she took £25,000.

Sam Skinner, prosecuting, said that Johnson had gone on to spend thousands of pounds of the money on herself. She went shopping, paid for hotel bills and gym membership as well as clearing her own debts using the cash.

Mr Skinner said that Johnson’s mother-in-law Elizabeth Storey had been left distraught following the death of her husband and allowed Johnson to help her.

He said: “Elizabeth Storey was unable to manage her finances because of the emotional effect on her.

“The money from the life insurance policy went into this defendant’s bank account. There was an agreement between Elizabeth Storey and this defendant that the defendant would manage some of Elizabeth Storey’s money while she was incapable of doing so.

“The defendant then set up online banking and transferred thousands and thousands of pounds between the bank accounts belonging to her, her husband and Elizabeth Storey over the next few years giving a confused situation.”

Mrs Storey became concerned about the way the money was being managed by Johnson and eventually made a complaint to police about it.

An investigation revealed that Johnson had used some of the life insurance money to pay for online shopping, internet bills, gym membership and hotel bills. She had also paid off credit card and other debts.

The court was told that Johnson has since repaid £15,000 of the money.

Mrs Storey, in a victim impact statement read out in court, said: “Losing my husband was heart-breaking.

“Everything changed when I called Sharon to ask for the money that had been moved into her account to be moved into my account.

“All I received was a torrent of abuse. It was every swear word under the sun. I couldn’t believe it.

“It is still incredibly painful. She’s ruined my life.”

James Gray, in mitigation, said that Johnson had never been in trouble with the law before and urged that she should receive a suspended jail sentence.

He said that a number of people had provided character references for Johnson and added: “This lady has lived for half a century without any brush with the law.

“She is viewed as a lady who leads a relatively simple life and works when she can.”

He said Johnson suffers from anxiety and depression and described her as “mentally fragile”.