A THIEVING carer spent money belonging to adults with learning difficulties on restaurant meals and tanning salons.

Michelle Young stole from disabled people in her care when she was employed as the manager of Lambton Grange Residential Home, near Chester-le-Street.

She would take money from their allowances and replace it with receipts to look as if they had spent that money themselves.

But her crimes came to light when the care home closed in 2017 due to financial problems and a different manager became suspicious after studying the accounts.

Jon Harley, prosecuting at Durham Crown Court, said: “Her suspicions grew when she saw receipts for fuel, restaurants and tanning, things that residents would not to spend their money on.

“This defendant was buying things with her own money and placing receipts into the records and then extracting the equivalent money from the personal accounts.

“She was effectively using that money to fund her own lifestyle and that was the position for five years.”

Between 2012 and 2017, she stole a total of £2,687 from five people in her care, including one man who has Downs Syndrome.

His mother, in a victim impact statement read out in court, said: “My son was in the care of Michelle Young.

“I was extremely shocked. I had a total trust in her. I’m extremely angry.

“She took advantage of my trust and my son’s from vulnerability.

“She even asked me to write a reference for her. I can’t believe she would ask me to write a glowing reference when she was stealing from my son.”

Young, 42, of Thomas Street South, Ryhope, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to five counts of theft.

Mitigating, Michele Turner said she intended to pay the amount back in full to each victim.

She said Young was struggling financially at the time.

Ms Turner said: “These offences did not start out as being dishonest.

“Part of her job was to take residents out so it was compensation for buying petrol for her own car and when she was out she would buy meals. She has poor thinking skills.”

Recorder Darren Preston told her she had come very close to serving a custodial sentence.

He sentenced her to ten months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, during which time she will have to complete a rehabilitation order and 200 hours unpaid work.

The judge said: “There was a high degree of trust in you and you targeted vulnerable victims. You ended up buying things that people would view as luxuries. Meals out and tanning sessions. Things that are in no way necessary.”