Nursing home staff who withdrew $1,000 with elderly resident's ATM card fined for theft, cheating

SINGAPORE - A nursing home employee stole an ATM card belonging to an elderly resident she was assigned to look after and withdrew $1,000 in cash. She also used the card to buy food and toiletries at a supermarket.

Latha Narayanan, 59, was fined $4,000 on Monday (June 13) after she pleaded guilty earlier to theft and cheating. Two other similar charges were taken into consideration during sentencing.

The court heard that in 2019, Latha, who was a health assistant at Woodlands Care Home, was assigned to care for the victim, a 65-year-old man.

He died in January 2021, according to court documents.

The court heard that some time in 2019, the man forgot the personal identification number (PIN) for his ATM card and Latha accompanied him to the bank to obtain a new code after a regular hospital visit.

The man received his new PIN in the presence of Latha and placed his ATM card in the pocket of his phone cover. He then handed the device to her for safekeeping.

On Nov 21, 2019, Latha used the card entrusted to her to withdraw $1,000 in cash, committing theft, said the prosecution.

She then used the card on Nov 25 to pay for $73 worth of food and toiletries at a supermarket in Woodlands, dishonestly inducing staff at the store to make the transaction.

The offences came to light when the elderly man reported to the police on Nov 27 that he lost his ATM card and that unauthorised withdrawals had been made from his bank account.

This was not Latha's first brush with the law. In 2017, she was fined $600 for property-related thefts, according to court documents.

Seeking a fine of $4,000, the prosecution said that the total amount involved in Latha's case was $1,870, noting that restitution was made in the form of a donation to the Singapore Cancer Society on Feb 9 this year.

In mitigation, defence lawyer Ashwin Ganapathy of IRB Law, who also sought a fine of $4,000, said Latha was committed to making restitution despite needing months to gather the funds.

He told the court in an earlier session that Latha had been a victim of bullying in her youth and endured abuse in her marriage. She was also abused by the victim whom she cared for at the nursing home, Mr Ashwin added.

The penalty for theft and cheating is a jail term of up to three years and a fine.

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