Stealing $300K from mother nets Victoria woman 30 months in jail

A Victoria woman has been sentenced 30 months in jail for stealing $300,000 from her vulnerable mother to support a drug habit and expensive tastes in hotels and lingerie.

Laurie Louise Reynolds spent her mother's life savings on a drug habit, lavish hotels and lingerie

A Victoria woman has been sentenced 30 months in jail for stealing $300,000 from her vulnerable mother to support a drug habit and expensive tastes in hotels and lingerie. (Shutterstock)

Sheila Reynolds died before her daughter was sentenced for stealing her life savings.

But the elderly woman was able to provide police a video statement, so Victoria provincial court judge Roger Cutler could determine for himself the depth of Laurie Louise Reynolds' betrayal as he sent the 63-year-old to jail.

"The video shows the victim in complete dismay, and in her frail state she simple states, 'it's unbelievable,'" Cutler noted.

The judge said he found it particularly poignant to watch as Sheila Reynolds reviewed an expenditure her daughter had made in excess of $1,000 on lingerie.

"When queried by the officer as to how someone could spend such an exorbitant amount on lingerie the victim simply stated of the accused 'she got fancy.'"

'Malevolent conduct'

That video now forms part of a record which saw Cutler sentence Laurie Louise Reynolds to 30 months in jail this week for her "sinister and abhorrent" theft.

In a blistering ruling, Cutler said it was important to take note of a crime that saw a daughter isolate her mother while draining her savings to support a drug habit and expensive tastes in hotels and clothing.

Judge Roger Cutler said vulnerable elderly people need protection from criminals who use their trust as a weapon.

"Vulnerable elderly persons in our community need to be protected from such malevolent conduct," he said.

"They are entitled in their last days to feel comfortable that they and their assets are secure, particularly from those they trust."

Reynolds pleaded guilty to one count of theft over $5,000 on the eve of a preliminary hearing at which her mother was scheduled to testify.

According to the decision, she took more than $300,000 from her mother's bank account over a four-year period ending in August 2013.

Mom — the perfect victim

The judge said Reynolds' scheme was not particularly sophisticated. But she did have the perfect victim. 

"All she needed was a vulnerable, elderly person who was wealthy, relied on the accused and, most importantly, explicitly trusted the accused," Cutler wrote.

Sheila Reynolds authorized her daughter to pay specific bills. Laurie Louise Reynolds used that privilege to gain wider access to her mother's account.

She then arranged for the bank to stop sending statements.

She started small — transferring amounts which totaled about $1,000 a month. But by the time the scheme was discovered, the transfers had reached up to $10,000 a month.

Reynolds claimed she spent as much as 60 per cent of the cash on her mother's needs. But Cutler said the evidence suggested otherwise.

"The accused was spending the money to support her expensive drug habit and lavish lifestyle," the judge wrote.

"Some of the extravagant spending included numerous expensive trips to exotic locations where the accused stayed in five-star hotels."

A hollow offer

In drawing up a sentence, Cutler said it was important to distinguish between workplace breach of trust and the complete betrayal that accompanies theft from a relative.

He cited as an aggravating factor Reynolds' efforts to keep her siblings at a distance, undermining her mother's "relationship with other family members during her final years."

The accused expressed remorse — which the judge rejected.

"I find it was not genuine and was provided begrudgingly," Cutler wrote.

He noted her "rather hollow" offer to pay $50 a month to her mother's estate as some form of restitution, an offer undercut by the fact Reynolds has filed a civil suit challenging her mother's last will and testament.

The 30-month sentence was at the upper end of the range suggested by the Crown. Cutler said Reynolds' crime warranted that kind of penalty.

"The court and the community must protect vulnerable elders from unscrupulous and sinister individuals such as the accused," he said.

During her video interview, Sheila Reynolds was presented the bank account statements Laurie Louise Reynolds hid from her for years, along with tallies of her daughter's expenses.

She was admitted to hospital for heart problems shortly after being informed of the theft. Cutler said it was apparently attributed to stress.


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