A man who hijacked the bank account of a vulnerable “father figure” – cleaning out more than £16,000 of the “increasingly forgetful” man’s cash – is facing jail.
Allan Lawson scammed £16,259.21 from Benno Wolecki throughout the course of more than a year between March 2016 and May 2017.
Mr Wolecki died at the age of 67, a few months after the fraud ended.
Lawson claimed at his trial that he hadn’t seen Mr Wolecki as an “easy target” and that money was only being transferred so he could help the frail man pay his bills.
But in reality he had hijacked the man’s bank accounts and was using the cash to plug the holes in his own finances.
Lawson would repeatedly transfer large sums of money into his bank account then withdraw the money within minutes from a cash machine near his home.
Procurator fiscal depute Joanne Smith also pointed to mobile phone evidence of the TSB Bank website being accessed on Mr Lawson’s mobile phone around the time that transfers were made into his account.
She added: “He disputed being in financial difficulties despite being significantly overdrawn and having to take crisis loans from the DWP.
“That is simply not credible or reliable.”
The trial heard Lawson was a regular visitor to Mr Wolecki’s home on the edge of Dundee city centre in a sheltered housing complex.
But the visits stopped shortly after online access was blocked to Mr Wolecki’s bank accounts.
Mr Wolecki went into hospital and died a few months after that.
Miss Smith said: “He was aware of his physical difficulties. He said he saw him as a father figure.
“But he wasn’t concerned enough to speak to the warden of the sheltered housing complex to find out where Mr Wolecki was after he’d gone into hospital.
“After the internet banking stopped there were no more visits.
“He knew he could no longer access the accounts – the money from that source had dried up.”
Lawson claimed Mr Wolecki had asked him to help pay his bills and assist him in getting cash out from the bank after he lost his driving licence for health reasons.
Bank records showed repeated transfers of cash from Mr Wolecki’s accounts directly into Lawson’s.
Lawson, giving evidence in his own defence, told the trial he had been asked to take the cash out by Mr Wolecki to pay bills.
He also claimed Mr Wolecki was repeatedly falling victim to “gambling scam letters” and was putting cash he had taken out towards those.
Prosecutor Miss Smith asked why the amounts of cash he was withdrawing didn’t tally with the amounts being transferred into his account.
Lawson claimed he was being “loaned” money by Mr Wolecki – who the court heard was undergoing tests at a hospital’s memory clinic because he was “getting more forgetful” – and paid him back every month.
The first transfer into Lawson’s account was for £3500 – a loan taken out by the vulnerable pensioner for Mr Lawson.
Lawson claimed he had been paying it back by standing order at £60 a month – and had paid it off within a year.
But bank records showed only a single payment going back to Mr Wolecki.
Fiscal depute Miss Smith said: “I have to put it to you that you saw him as an easy target – you were transferring money from that account to your account?”
Lawson said: “No.”
Lawson’s lawyer Ian Houston said: “Suspicious though some of the accused’s actions may have been we are lacking cohesive evidence in this case.”
Lawson, 39, of Broughty Ferry Road, Dundee, initially denied a charge of fraud alleged to have been committed between July 15 2014 and May 8 2017 on summary complaint.
It was alleged he obtained £22,259 by fraud by repeatedly accessing Mr Wolecki’s accounts and stealing the cash.
After a three-day trial at Dundee Sheriff Court he was convicted of the theft of a total of £16,259.21 between March 2016 and May 2017.
Sheriff John Rafferty deferred sentence for social work background reports on Lawson and released him on bail meantime.
He will be sentenced on January 25.