A woman who stole more than £1,500 from her vulnerable neighbours in a ‘despicable’ crime has escaped an immediate prison sentence.
Giovanna Chirico, 36, of Barton Close, Worthing, was found guilty of two counts of fraud by false representation in October and received a 26-week suspended jail sentence at Lewes Crown Court this morning (November 26).
She appeared in court today just after the term of another suspended sentence, for possessing a controlled drug with intent to supply, expired.
But Judge Alastair Wright said it would be ‘unjust’ to activate the initial suspended sentence.
“You should be under absolutely no illusions that these offences were despicable, to an 81-year-old woman,” he said, adding she was ‘lucky’ she had not been brought before the court while still serving her previous suspended sentence.
Had that been the case, he said, there could have been a ‘different result’.
“I think it would be unjust to activate the suspended sentence that was under force,” he added.
The court heard how Chirico had visited the house of her neighbours Michael and Mavis Shoesmith on several occasions in 2017, gaining access to two of their bank cards.
After linking the cards to her Paypal account on December 31, she spent £1,569.23 over several months at stores including Tesco and iTunes.
A five-year restraining order was also imposed due to Mrs Shoesmith’s ‘fear’ of seeing Chirico leaving her wary of going outside, the court heard.
Speaking for the prosecution, Jordan Franks said the ordeal had affected Mrs Shoesmith’s health – a claim questioned by Judge Wright due to the lack of tangible evidence.
Alongside the 26-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, Mr Wright also ordered Chirico to undertake 150 hours’ unpaid work and 30 Rehabilitation Requirement days over the next 12 months, and to pay £100 for breaching the terms of her previous suspended sentence.
He also advised Chirico that she may be ‘hearing from the banks’, Santander and Barclays, in civil cases should they choose to pursue compensation.
Chirico’s defence had submitted handwritten letters from two of her four her children prior to sentencing, and Judge Alistair Wright said he acknowledged the threat of her children being taken into care when deciding on a punishment.
Read our previous story about the fraud case here: Worthing woman steals over £1,500 from vulnerable married couple