Swindling nursing home director jailed for $600k fraud
A former Melbourne nursing home director who swindled elderly couples out of hundreds of thousands of dollars will spend 10 months in jail.
Gela Newitt, 71, used $600,000 of residents' money to prop up the failing Mentone Gardens home before it collapsed in 2013.
Allan Lorraine and his wife Rose, who suffered dementia, were swindled out of $400,000 after selling their house to move into the nursing home.
Instead, Newitt used their money as well as another couple's to prop up the financially failing facility and later pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception.
"You found yourself in a spiral of robbing Peter to pay Paul," County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd told Newitt, before jailing her for a total of two years and 10 months.
But the 71-year-old wheelchair-bound fraudster will only serve 10 months behind bars, with the rest of the sentence suspended, because of her myriad physical and mental health issues.
She wept with her head in her hand as the judge detailed her fraud, committed alongside her husband Bill. He died in 2014.
The victims believed the money they paid between 2008 and 2010 would be held in a trust account and earn interest while they resided at the home.
Only one victim lived to see Newitt jailed.
The Lorraine's son, Bob, was in court on his surviving father's behalf and was satisfied with the punishment.
"The law has run its course. I guess it's not for us to determine what the punishment should be apart from to have an expectation that there should be some punishment," he told AAP.
"I would be angry if she had got away without punishment. I hope it deters other people from committing white-collar crime, particularly stealing from older, vulnerable people.
"You don't want to see that happening to your parents."
Newitt resigned as a director of Mentone Gardens in 2011 and at one point told another worker the bond money had instead been used to pay bills and employees.
Judge Kidd accepted the woman played a lessor role in the fraud than her accountant husband.
"You benefited from the use of the funds to keep Mentone Gardens in operation," the judge said.
The home went into liquidation in 2013.
Newitt, who was once a nurse, suffers from spinal and heart issues, rheumatoid arthritis and depressive symptoms.
The court was told she experienced "unabating grief" after the deaths of her husband as well as her daughter, had suicidal ideation and took antidepressants.
Judge Kidd accepted all of this would make jail much harder for Newitt compared with other prisoners.
He added she was sorry for the fraud, would not be in a position to reoffend, and was an otherwise hardworking, kind and generous person who had provided excellent care to the Mentone Gardens' residents.
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