Advocates for the elderly are warning seniors to beware of debit card theft after a Charlottetown man admitted to stealing thousands of dollars from his 83-year-old neighbour.
Mitchell Charles Donovan, 22, pleaded guilty to theft over $5,000. He appeared in Prince Edward Island Supreme Court on Wednesday for his sentencing, but it’s been adjourned until November for a hearing on the facts.
He said he had known the victim for over 15 years.
The court heard how Donovan offered to do some odd jobs for the women, including painting, in the spring of 2012.
He asked for payment in advance and cashed dozens of cheques in a number of months.
The woman's bank grew suspicious and stopped cashing the cheques.
Donovan then used the woman's debit card to take out cash advances.
When bank staff once again grew suspicious, they called police.
The Crown said more than $23,000 changed hands.
Donovan's defence lawyer told the court he stole some of the money to feed his drug habit, but he said at least some of the money was freely given to him and rightfully earned.
That brought Wednesday’s sentencing hearing to a halt. It's been adjourned until Nov. 28 so the Crown can lay out more details on the financial transactions.
Seniors’ advocates said the theft fits a familiar pattern.
"Usually older adults are scammed by people they know — by family, by friends — so they can easily get caught into this web. It's not something to be ashamed of but it's certainly something you need to talk about and need to rectify it," said Olive Bryenton, with the P.E.I. Senior Safety Program
The victim has since moved out of her home.
Donovan's defence lawyer said that makes it impossible for his client to finish the painting job.