Thursday, January 03, 2008

Power of Attorney dangers : Policeman 'plundered widows assets'

Signing a power of attorney can be a dangerous thing indeed - and this turns out to be the case in many instances ...

The Telegraph reports :

Detective 'helped himself to widow's assets'

A police detective who befriended an elderly widow bought her home at a reduced price and plundered her assets, a court has heard.

Detective Chief Inspector Peter Salkeld, of Sussex Police, was granted power of attorney over Eileen Savage's finances. He bought her house, which was worth £105,000, in May 1997 for £55,000.

The house was sold two years later for £157,200, Maidstone Crown Court heard. David Walbank, prosecuting, said the Crown was not suggesting that Mrs Savage, now aged 93 and living in a care home in Hove, East Sussex, was mentally incapable at the time.

He told the jury: "She may not have understood the extent to which the price he paid represented an undervalue.

"What is clear, however, is that she was at that time deceived as to the defendant's true intentions in relation to her and her finances.

"If she had known that within a few years she would be penniless and all but abandoned, it is inconceivable that she would have transferred her home in that way."

Mr Walbank said that Salkeld stripped Mrs Savage's assets between May 1997 when he was handed power of attorney over her assets at the Portman Building Society and January 2001.

Mr Walbank added: "By January 2001, her capital assets had been largely depleted.

"She no longer owned a property. The credit balance left in her Portman Building Society account had been transferred to her HSBC account.

"And the HSBC account had a small cash reserve of just over £11,000. But the defendant did not stop there."

Salkeld is alleged to have used Mrs Savage's HSBC bank card and PIN to make five cash withdrawals in March and April 2001 totalling £600.

The withdrawals continued right up until Salkeld's arrest in January 2006, the last being seven days before his arrest, Mr Walbank said.

It was also alleged that in August 2001 Salkeld duped Brighton and Hove City Council into paying Mrs Savage's care costs by claiming that she had not owned a property for the last 15 years, despite having sold it himself.

"He acted for his own selfish reasons, trying to avoid Mrs Savage's capital assets from being depleted in paying for her care, but instead remained available for him to plunder."

The court also heard that Salkeld allegedly used the police force's company credit card to buy goods for his own use. He is also accused of deceiving his employer by claiming a grant from the Sussex Police Welfare Fund for £1,100 to buy caravanning equipment.

Salkeld, of Shoreham, West Sussex, denies 19 charges of theft, obtaining property by deception and obtaining a money transfer by deception between May 1997 and September 2005.

The case continues.

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