A HOUGHTON woman who stole nearly £10,000 from a vulnerable man in her care will be sentenced at Swansea Crown Court, Haverfordwest magistrates’ decided on Tuesday.

Laura Jane Nichols, 26, of Vale Court, pleaded guilty to stealing £9,831.99 between May 21 2012 and February 8 2013.

Nichols was a team leader at Elliots Hill Care Ltd when she stole the money from the man’s bank account.

Her victim, a 41-year-old Fishguard man with learning difficulties, could not manage his own finances and received 24-hour care, the court heard.

Prosecutor Ellie Morgan said Nichols had full control of her victim’s finances, as he could not use a cash machine and would not have been able to remember his PIN.

Last February another member of staff realised the bank account was overdrawn. Company manager Thomas Hale then got hold of bank statements going back 12 months and saw large sums of money had been withdrawn across Pembrokeshire and in Cardiff.

Withdrawals were also made when the victim was visiting his parents in France. Ms Morgan gave details of several transactions during December 2012 which had not been noted in the company’s finance book.

“When he arrived at his parents they say he only had about £15 on him even though more than £800 had been taken from his account during that period,” she said.

When interviewed Nichols told police she used the money for bills and loan repayments.

Officers found clothes, shoes and handbags at her parents’ house which Nichols said she had bought herself but admitted supplementing her account with the stolen money.

The court heard more than £1,000 from the man’s ISA account had been transferred to his current account. Elliots Hill has since paid back all of the money.

Jonathan Webb, defending, read a statement from Nichols' current boss who hoped to continue employing her and said she was an “integral part of the team”.

Mr Webb said Nichols had a second job at a pub but still found herself in financial difficulties after leaving home.

“Depression and anxiety are a feature of her life,” he added, as Nichols wept in the dock.

The chair of the magistrates’ bench said nothing justified Nichols’ actions.

“We are not sure we have sufficient powers to sentence because of the aggravating features in this case,” she added, sending the case to Swansea Crown Court for sentencing on February 7.

Magistrates ordered a probation report and Nichols was released on bail on the conditions she does not contact the victim and cooperates with probation.