Son ‘plundered’ over £1.5 million from wealthy mother leaving little for personal care, court hears
A son “plundered” more than £1.5 million from his wealthy elderly mother, leaving her little for her own care, after she became too ill to look after her own financial affairs, a court has heard.
Jonathan Feld, 62, allegedly moved £1.3 million of 89-year-old Hannah Feld’s money to a joint Swiss bank account before emptying it into his own account.
He also transferred stocks and shares, withdrew cash from ATMs and used her credit cards for shopping sprees in London, Southwark Crown Court heard on Friday.
Mrs Feld, who retired to Tel Aviv in Israel with her late husband Monty Feld in 1988, was suffering from “significant cognitive decline” at the time of the alleged thefts, a jury was told.
Feld, from Kilburn, north-west London, is on trial after a private prosecution was brought by his sister, Louise Radley.
He denies two counts of theft between October 2014 and September 2018 and will claim the money was a gift from his mother, said prosecutor Adam Gersch.
“This case involves an allegation that the defendant Jonathan Feld stole over £1.5 million from his vulnerable elderly mother, Hannah, after she had lost her mental capacity to look after her own affairs,” he said.
“The total sum the prosecution allege Jonathan Feld plundered from his mother’s bank accounts was at least £1,584,957.”
Mr Gersch told the jury the Felds were “quite a wealthy family” with the couple’s savings amounting to some 3 million dollars by 2010.
“Both children enjoyed a privileged standard of living, and both received financial assistance from a loan from a family trust to help them buy their respective homes,” he said.
The trust was administered by a family solicitor and the Felds were “very particular” with their money and did not give their children financial help in cash, the prosecutor continued.
“They were concerned their children benefit and (money) didn’t go to spouses or elsewhere and was not pilfered away in some other way.”
The court heard that Monty Feld died in 2010 and, by 2012, the family, including Jonathan Feld, were expressing concerns about Mrs Feld’s health, which had further deteriorated by 2014 and in 2018 a court in Israel appointed a legal guardian.
In May 2015, a Julius Baer account was set up in Jonathan and Mrs Feld’s names, with £1.3 million of the mother’s money moved into it, and instructions for all correspondence to be sent to the son in London, the jury was told.
Mr Gersch said “very large sums” were transferred to Feld’s own account using complicated international transactions, via Israel or the Isle of Man.
Feld allegedly also made ATM cash withdrawals from his mother’s Israeli Bank Leumi account, with the amount of money being taken out increasing when he visited the country.
The court heard that during a visit to the UK between April and July 2017, Mrs Feld’s credit card was used to withdraw almost £10,000 in cash and buy goods from Superdry, the Kooples, Uniglo, Geox the Apple store.
“Apparently, she went on a magical mystery tour using her Israeli credit card to withdraw large sums of cash from ATMs,” said Mr Gersch.
“The prosecution say that either Hannah Feld or her credit card was taken on a massive shopping spree when she came to London.”
Jurors were told the spending did not stop when she went home, with her money used to pay a £1,264 medical bill and buy £37 of Ocado shopping.
The prosecutor said the transactions were “totally out of keeping with the expenditure of a lady in her advanced years”.
“A staggering sum of over £1.5 million was plundered from Hannah Feld’s life savings. She was previously a wealthy woman,” he said.
He said jurors would have to decide whether Feld acted “dishonestly” by taking large sums his mother’s money, “almost all of it”, and “leaving her very little for her own personal care”.
“The question for you to resolve is whether the defendant took advantage of his mother’s inability to manage her own financial affairs or whether he was acting honestly when he took these vast amounts of cash from his wealthy mother, which he genuinely believed to be a gift, he will say.”
The trial continues.
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