Jury likely to get theft case today
The late sister of alleged elder abuse victim Lenice Tucker would be “spinning in her grave” if she knew how the money she left behind had “torn apart” her family, a jury was told yesterday.
Crown counsel Garrett Byrne, giving his closing statement at the Supreme Court theft trial of Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean, claimed the defendants targeted their grandmother Ms Tucker just days after her 91-year-old sister Lesseline died, leaving her $540,000.
But lawyer Larry Mussenden, defending sisters Ms Smith and Ms Bean, insisted there was no dishonesty on his clients’ part and no intention to permanently deprive Ms Tucker of her money.
The real “villains of the piece”, he claimed, were Ms Tucker’s drug-using son Ivan Bean and another man, Alvin (Kelly) Jones, who believed Lesseline left him money in her will.
Mr Mussenden said the defendants moved more than $456,000 from bank accounts they shared with their grandmother to accounts solely in their names on October 8, 2010, purely to protect it from the two men.
He said they “didn’t have a chance to deal with consent” from their grandmother on that date but Ms Smith informed Ms Tucker, 87, of their actions soon after.
Ms Smith, 46, of Lusher Hill, Warwick, and Ms Bean, 44, of Lusher Lane East, Warwick, are jointly charged with senior abuse by financial exploitation and the theft of $456,885 from their grandmother.
Ms Smith also faces charges of theft from Ms Tucker amounting to $29,695 and Ms Bean faces a theft charge involving $7,000. They deny all counts.
Mr Byrne told the jury that Lesseline, who lived with Ms Tucker and another sister, Marjorie, on Middle Road, Southampton, managed the household and “ran a tight ship”.
She added Ms Tucker to five of her bank accounts, containing $540,000, before her death on July 15, 2010.
“The money clearly belonged to Lenice,” said the prosecutor, adding that on July 20 and 21, 2010, the defendants escorted their grandmother to the bank to have their names added to Ms Tucker’s accounts.
“Lesseline’s passing, you might think, could not have come at a more fortunate time for Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean. They had a clear motive for doing what they did. They were in difficult financial circumstances.”
He added: “All they had to do was wait for the right time to pounce. Can there be any doubt that these defendants cynically exploited their grandmother?”
Mr Byrne urged the jury to consider the timing of the bank visits, telling them: “They knew their prey was going to be at her weakest.
“It’s clear neither of these two ladies, these defendants, gave any consideration or any thought to their grandmother’s feelings whatsoever. Consider the cold, calculating callousness of that.”
He said: “This family has been torn apart by these events and everyone in the case has been affected by it.
“What we say is that much of these problems were caused by these defendants acting greedily and stealing this money.
“There’s no doubt that if Lesseline were looking down on this from above you might think she would be turning or spinning in her grave.”
Mr Mussenden, in his closing statement, told the jury their starting point in assessing the evidence should be July 20, 2010, when he said there “there was no dupe whatsoever”.
He said there was no criminal or suspicious reason for the adding of Ms Smith or Ms Bean’s names to their grandmother’s bank accounts, adding that the Crown failed to prove any criminal action took place that day or on July 21.
He pointed out that HSBC banking specialist Karimah Moore, a prosecution witness, told the trial that Ms Tucker “gave the directions herself out of her own mouth” for her granddaughters to become cosignatories.
“That is where the Crown’s case starts to fail,” he said.
Mr Mussenden said there was no dishonesty on October 8, when his clients acted to protect their grandmother’s cash from their father Mr Bean and maintenance man Mr Jones, after the men were spotted together in the bank.
“You cannot sweep aside Ivan Bean and you cannot sweep aside Kelly in this case,” he added.
Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves is due to finish his summing up of the evidence today (Thursday) before sending the jury out to consider its verdict.