Friday 18 October 2019

'I cried over how hard my husband worked to earn it' - elderly woman on carer who stole €40k

Nermana Gojak who pleaded guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from a woman she was working for as a carer and a housekeeper
Nermana Gojak who pleaded guilty at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft from a woman she was working for as a carer and a housekeeper
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Sonya McLean

A woman who stole the proceeds of the sale of a retired GP's surgery when she was working as the victim's carer has been jailed for two years.

Nermana Gojak (44) worked as both a carer and a housekeeper for a couple of days a week for the 90-year-old woman for 10 years. Both the woman and her late husband had worked as GPs in the area and the victim had opened up a deposit account with the funds from the sale of her husband's GP surgery when he passed away.

Gojak stole €41,380 over five years by making ATM withdrawals, using the woman's laser card to purchase items and getting cash back at points of sale. She regularly transferred funds from this deposit account to the woman's current account to allow her easy access to the money.

Gojak of Pineview Avenue, Aylesbury, Tallaght pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to the theft from Ulster Bank, Dundrum on dates between September 8, 2012 and August 8, 2017. Gojak has no previous convictions and is unemployed.

Dara Hayes BL, prosecuting, read the woman's victim impact statement into the record at the original sentence hearing last December, in which she stated “I cried when I thought of how hard my husband had to work to get that money”. She said the crime was deceitful, cruel and callous.

She said that she has not been to able to secure a new carer since Gojak's theft came to light and she has had to move into a nursing home.

The woman said she became fearful and worried about living in her home on her own and felt financially vulnerable.

“I embraced her like a daughter,” she said while outlining that she went to Gojak's children's plays, dancing competitions and “celebrated all their achievements”. She said she didn't forget the children's birthdays.

“It was such an upheaval at this stage of my life. It will stay with me to the end of my days,” the woman concluded her statement.

Judge Melanie Greally had previously remanded Gojak on continuing bail and adjourned sentencing having heard evidence last December.

Today she noted from the victim impact report that the “most significant element” for the woman was “the immense sense of betrayal which she has experienced”.

“It is clear from the report that she regarded the accused as one of her family and embraced her as one of her family, introducing her to her wider family and celebrating family events with her,” Judge Greally said.

She said the victim had raised those funds from “a life time of hard work” and the sale of a GP practice and noted that “she was left in financial insecurity as a result of what was taken from her”.

Judge Greally said the case “necessitated a custodial sentence” before she sentenced Gojak to three years in prison but suspended the final 12 months on strict conditions including that she engage with the Probation Service for 12 months.

She said she had taken into account Gojak's lack of previous convictions, her pleas of guilty, co-operation, remorse and the fact that she had €2,000 in court to offer as a token of that remorse.

Judge Greally also acknowledged that Gojak had experienced difficulties in her past noting that she had come to Ireland from war torn Bosnia and accepted that some mental health issues were identified in a probation report before the court.

Gojak's defence counsel Marc Murphy BL, accepted it was an extremely serious offence that had a serious impact on the victim. He acknowledged that the money has not been repaid and said there was no reality to her ever paying it back in full.

Counsel suggested that if Gojak was given some time she may be able to gather together “a token amount as a symbol of her remorse”.

Mr Murphy said Gojak played “a central role in her family life” and is a devoted mother to her three children aged between 12 and 17 years old. “She has an expectation of a custodial sentence”, counsel said.

Garda Karl O'Neill told Mr Hayes that the victim's friend, a retired accountant, had been regularly assisting her with her financial matters. She was in the house on one occasion when she overheard Gojak on the phone requesting a transfer from the woman's deposit account to her current account.

The woman became concerned and asked her friend if she could look into her bank statements. She immediately noticed that many thousands of euro had been transferred from the woman's deposit account to her current account and that there had been numerous subsequent withdrawals from the current account.

Gda O'Neill confirmed that Gojak had been working with the woman for two hours a day, three days a week, since 2008. She would often go to the shop for her or accompany the pensioner to the hairdresser, where she would see her input her pin for her bank cards.

The theft was reported to the gardaí and Gojak was arrested in January 2018 when she made full admissions in a subsequent interview.

Gda O'Neill agreed with Mr Murphy that his client had given an apology and shown remorse during garda interview.

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