herald

Wednesday 26 June 2019

'She was like a daughter' - carer jailed for €41K theft from widowed GP

Nermana Gojak used ATM withdrawals and other methods to steal €41,380
Nermana Gojak used ATM withdrawals and other methods to steal €41,380

A woman who stole the proceeds of the sale of a retired GP's surgery when she was working as the victim's carer has been jailed for two years.

Nermana Gojak (44) worked as both a carer and a housekeeper for the 90-year-old woman for 10 years.

Both the woman and her late husband had worked as GPs and the victim had opened up a deposit account with the funds from the sale of her husband's surgery when he died.

Gojak stole €41,380 over five years by making ATM withdrawals, using the woman's Laser card to buy items and getting cash back at points of sale.

She regularly transferred funds from the deposit account to the woman's current account to allow her easy access to the money.

Cried

Jobless Gojak, of Pineview Avenue, Aylesbury, Tallaght, pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from Ulster Bank, Dundrum, on dates between September 8, 2012, and August 8, 2017.

Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, read out the woman's victim impact statement at the original sentence hearing last December, in which she said: "I cried when I thought of how hard my husband had to work to get that money".

She said the crime was deceitful, cruel and callous.

The woman said she had not been to able to secure a new carer since Gojak's theft came to light and that she had had to move into a nursing home.

The woman said she became fearful and worried about living in her home on her own and felt financially vulnerable.

"I embraced her like a daughter," she said, adding that she went to Gojak's children's plays, dancing competitions and "celebrated all their achievements".

"It was such an upheaval at this stage of my life. It will stay with me to the end of my days," she added.

Yesterday, Judge Melanie Greally noted that the "most significant element" for the woman was "the immense sense of betrayal which she has experienced".

"It is clear from the report that she regarded the accused as one of her family and embraced her as one of her family, introducing her to her wider family and celebrating family events with her," she added.

Judge Greally sentenced Gojak to three years in prison but suspended the final 12 months on strict conditions, including that she engage with the Probation Service for 12 months.

She said she had taken into account Gojak's lack of previous convictions, her pleas of guilty, co-operation, remorse and the fact that she had €2,000 in court to offer as a token of that remorse.

She also acknowledged that Gojak had come to Ireland from war-torn Bosnia, and accepted that a probation report identified some mental health issues.

Gojak's defence counsel, Marc Murphy BL, accepted it was an extremely serious offence. He also acknowledged that the money had not been repaid and said there was no reality of his client ever paying it back in full.

He said Gojak was a devoted mother to her three children aged between 12 and 17.

"She has an expectation of a custodial sentence", he said.

Garda Karl O'Neill told the court that a retired accountant who was a friend of the victim had been regularly assisting her with her financial matters.

On one occasion she overheard Gojak on the phone requesting a transfer from the woman's deposit account to her current account. The woman became concerned and asked her friend if she could look into her bank statements.

She immediately noticed that many thousands of euro had been transferred from the woman's deposit account to her current account and that there had been numerous subsequent withdrawals.

Gda O'Neill said Gojak would often go to the shop for the pensioner or accompany her to the hairdresser, where she would see her input her PIN for her bank cards.

The theft was reported to gardai and Gojak was arrested in January 2018, when she made full admissions.

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