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Sisters convicted of stealing from their granny

Sisters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean yesterday became the first defendants in Bermuda to be convicted of senior abuse after a jury found them guilty of fleecing their grieving elderly grandmother.

The pair stole almost half a million dollars from 87-year-old Lenice Tucker, deceiving her into adding their names to her bank accounts just days after her wealthy 91-year-old sister Lesseline died in July 2010.

A unanimous Supreme Court jury of ten women and two men found them guilty of senior abuse by financial exploitation after more than seven hours of deliberation.

Neither woman showed any visible emotion as the verdicts were read out and both were remanded in custody pending sentence.

The convictions are the first under the Senior Abuse Register Act 2008 and the names of Smith and Bean will be the first to be placed on the Island’s Senior Abuse Register.

Both defendants were also found guilty of stealing $456,885 from Ms Tucker on October 8, 2010, when they moved that sum from shared accounts with her to accounts solely in their names.

Those verdicts were by a majority of ten jurors to two.

The jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict on an $8,000 theft charge against mother-of-four Smith, 46, of Lusher Hill, Warwick.

The Argus Insurance employee stole that amount from Ms Tucker to loan to her colleague and friend Pearl Blankendal. The trial, which began on April 16, heard the funds have yet to be paid back to Ms Tucker.

Smith was also convicted by majority verdicts of five other theft charges, totalling $20,695. That money was spent in part on school fees for her daughters at the Bermuda Institute and on rent.

She was unanimously cleared of one charge of stealing $1,000 on September 28, 2010.

Mother-of-one Bean, 44, of Lusher Lane East, Warwick, was convicted by a majority verdict of 11 to one of stealing $7,000 from her grandmother.

The Ministry of Education paraprofessional, who works with special needs children, used $5,000 of that to pay off a credit card and then went on a spending spree, buying shoes, jewellery and other items.

Crown counsel Garrett Byrne said during the trial that Smith and Bean cleared Ms Tucker’s bank accounts between July 2010 and January 2011, leaving her with just $200.

The pensioner’s sister died on July 15, 2010, leaving her $540,000 in bank accounts with HSBC and Butterfield.

Smith and Bean duped their grandmother into adding them as signatories to her accounts on July 20 and 21, 2010, before Lesseline’s funeral had even taken place.

Less than three months later, they transferred $456,885 into accounts solely in their names, not telling anyone else in the family about their actions.

A Butterfield employee gave evidence at the trial that pensioner Ms Tucker visited the bank that month and “appeared surprised” to find her account cleared.

Police were called in after a relative of the pensioner, Carrie Tucker, raised the alarm, setting out her suspicions that money had been stolen in a memo to the National Office for Seniors and the Physically Challenged.

The thieving siblings, members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, were arrested simultaneously at their workplaces in January 2011; neither would comment when quizzed about the allegations by detectives.

They claimed during the trial they moved their grandmother’s money into their accounts to protect it from their drug-using father Ivan Bean, who is Ms Tucker’s son, and another man, Alvin (Kelly) Jones, who claimed he was owed money from Lesseline’s will.

Smith and Bean, who denied all charges, said in evidence they were so concerned about the two men they sought advice from lawyer Myron Simmons, who advised them to transfer the funds.

Mr Simmons gave evidence for the defence, telling the jury: “I said they could move it with the grandmother’s consent.”

The defendants said Ms Tucker gave permission for them to use her cash for school fees, rent and other expenses, including a loan for a car to their half-sister Avril Paul II.

But the jury rejected their version of events, instead believing Ms Tucker, of Middle Road, Southampton, when she told them she did not agree to add her granddaughters as signatories to her accounts and was “very upset” about what had happened.

The senior said she never gave permission for the sisters to take any money from her accounts.

After yesterday’s verdicts, Mr Byrne told the court the Crown would make an application for confiscation and reparation of the $367,105 belonging to Ms Tucker, which is frozen in Smith and Bean’s bank accounts.

Puisne Judge Carlisle Greaves ordered pre-sentence reports on the sisters and set the matter for mention at the June 1 arraignments session in Supreme Court.

Sisters Lorraine Smith and Audra-Ann Bean are led to a prison van after being found guilty early yesterday evening of senior abuse and stealing almost half a million dollars from their grandmother Lenice Tucker. ( Photo by Glenn Tucker )

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Published April 27, 2012 at 9:00 am (Updated April 27, 2012 at 9:47 am)

Sisters convicted of stealing from their granny

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