Jailed: Social services boss who stole £94,000 from disabled victims

A social services chief who helped systematically plunder the bank accounts of seven highly vulnerable victims in his care, to the tune of around £94,000 has been jailed for 21 months.

Edward Leavy 41, along with unknown others, used their cash and credit cards and PIN numbers to drain money from their banks and building societies over a three year period during which he was a senior manager with Manchester Council’s Physical Disabilities Team.

From one of his victims alone, he stole a staggering £54,000 – almost everything he had.

More tragically, Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court was told that the victim who has since died, had intended to leave the majority of his money to the Rainbow Trust charity.

Sentencing him, judge Timothy Mort told him: “These people you looked after were people who were vulnerable and totally unable to manage their own affairs.

“What is most distressing here, and of great concern to the families of loved ones who were in care, is that you simply carried on where others before you had begun.

“There seems to have been a systematic abuse of people by some social services staff at these homes

“It is mind boggling that no paper trail was left to alert people, and basically it was a whistle blowing incident that brought these matters to light.”

Tim Brennand prosecuting, told the court that the accounts of seven victims had been plundered in cruel conspiracy to take advantage of people who were in social services care.

David Tinker, who died aged 63, two years ago, had been confined to a wheelchair with impaired mental and physical capacity after becoming the tragic victim of an explosion at work, and was described by one of his carers, as one of the most vulnerable adults he had ever worked with.

He should have been ‘cash rich’ with enough funds to have ensured him comfort for life.

In November 2006 his Halifax account had funds of almost £67,000 – his half-share from the sale of the house he had formerly owned with his elderly mother.

In less than two years, it had been drained of all but just under £5,000.

The court was told that he had intended that when he died, nine tenths of his estate should go to the Rainbow Trust.

More than £5,000 of the cash obtained by Leavy was spent in a sex shop in Manchester city centre – the Private Shop, owned by Darker Enterprises on Oldham Street – where Levy was so well known to staff that he was nicknamed the “Golden Root Man” because of the large quantities of a herbal equivalent of Viagra that he bought.

It is believed it could have been a money laundering operation, with the sex enhancing product then being sold on.

Mr Tinker’s card was used frequently for other purposes, including a string of withdrawals of cash. Levy had also managed to buy three properties, and go on holiday to the Caribbean.

In January 2007 alone, Mr Tinker’s card was used on 23 separate days to withdraw the daily £300 maximum.

Mr Brennand told the court: “His use of the card was as audacious as it was persistent.”

The conspiracy was finally revealed after police were called in when a colleague opened a statement posted out to Mr Tinker, and was alarmed to see the numerous withdrawals from his account.

An anonymous letter alerting social services to what was going on was also mailed to the council.

An investigation found that Leavy, who began working for Social Services as a support worker in 2002, had been living well beyond his means, and bragged about how frequently he holidayed in the USA, and was thinking of buying property there.

It became clear that he, along with others who have not been identified, were responsible for the systematic and repeated withdrawals of money that were stolen from vulnerable people.

Leavy, of Dane Bank Mews, Denton, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to defraud at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court on the day he should have gone on trial last month.

The offences took place between early 2005 and early 2008 when he had managerial responsibility for three accommodation complexes for people with special needs: Alsager Close in Chorlton, Kentmore Close in Gorton, and Louisa Street in Openshaw.

Based at Social Services headquarters at The Leaf Centre in Miles Platting, before being suspended in February 2008, he had been in a unique position to exploit and use his knowledge of the systems in place for the handling of money, cash cards and other valuables belonging to service users.

It should have been able to provide a paper-trail of all transactions if an issue arose, but in fact the system was not followed by Leavy, and some other care workers.

In cases where service users were limited in their ability to understand and act for themselves, bank cards, PIN numbers, statements and cash would be kept in the manager’s office.

The same applied to residents who did not have a secure safe in their room.

In Mr Tinker’s case, Leavy alone had been in charge of his cash card, cheque book and financial wallet.

When police searched his car and his home, numerous papers and documents were found, on which names or initials, and what were obviously PIN numbers had been written, including Mr Tinker’s.

Another was Stephen Brown, who had had a healthy bank balance of more than £10,000 at the beginning of 2005 when he was at Alsager Close.

From November however, regular withdrawals of £300 were made and by January 2006, £9,600 had vanished. In total it is believed £23,000 was taken from his account.

Rosalind Emsley-Smith defending, told the court that Leavy who she described as a complex character, had received death threats following publicity about the court case.

She said he had formerly been a hard working, caring, and utterly diligent person who had been responsible for influencing some peoples’ lives in a positive and life changing way.

She said his actions were inexplicable, and that he felt devastated by what he had done.

She said he had been out of his depth in his job; had wanted to appear as someone who was successful and could cope, but in fact was suffering from crippling low esteem.

She said: “He is a man who has lost everything. Financially he now has nothing, he has lost his future, along with any remaining respect, and will have to rebuild his life again.
Ben Collinson, reviewing lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said: “All the victims in this case were vulnerable and – along with their relatives – implicitly trusted Mr Leavy to attend to their affairs in a proper and honest manner.

“Instead, Mr Leavy repeatedly and systematically stole from the very people for whom he had a duty of care. In one instance, he stole the life savings of one victim – over £50,000.

“We hope this conviction and sentence sends out a clear message that the CPS is committed to prosecuting those people who commit crimes against the elderly and the vulnerable.”