Caretaker sentenced for stealing from elderly woman

WEST CHESTER — A New London woman who worked as a caregiver for an elderly woman at a Penn senior living facility has been sentenced to jail for stealing several thousand dollars from her employer.

Jessica A. Jennings pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of theft by deception. On Wednesday, after a sentencing hearing before Common Pleas Judge David Bortner, at which the victim spoke by video of how the crime had affected her, Jennings was sentenced to serve four to 23 months in Chester County Prison.

“Jessie, I really liked you,” the victim, 80-year-old Virginia Scott, told the defendant on the video that was recorded in August by Assistant District Attorney Brian Burack at the rehabilitation center where Scott was staying. “I liked you a whole lot. I feel like you should get punished in some way just to teach you a lesson to not steal from people that you supposedly love.”

Scott, who reported the theft of money from her bank account in November 2012, said that the loss of the $6,700 Jennings admitted taking had made her cancel plans to attend a family member's funeral in Ohio, and miss the birth of her grandson. “It was an awkward situation,” she said. “I just hated it.”

Scott did not attend the hearing because of her fragile medical condition.

“We are hoping the sentence will send a message to the caretaking community: If you steal from the elderly, you will get caught, and you will go to jail,” Burak, who prosecuted the case, said Thursday.

Jennings, 30, was arrested in December by state police Trooper Gregory Butler, who had interviewed Scott at Luther's Home in Penn the month before. Scott told him that she had given Jennings, her caregiver, her debit card so that she could occasionally purchase groceries for the home. Scott said she had never given Jennings permission to use the card for anything but that and to draw her $150-a-week salary.

A woman who was Scott's new caregiver had been able to sort through Scott's finances and discover the improper withdrawals made by Jennings. The woman told Butler that she listened to a telephone conversation between Scott and Jennings during which Jennings promised to pay back the money she had taken at a rate of $100 a month.

When Butler interviewed Jennings, she claimed that Scott had said that it would be all right for her to borrow money from her, and that she did so because she was having money problems. She said she took between $1,500 and $2,000 from Scott's account.

A later examination determined the amount taken from Scott's bank account was actually $6,700.

Burack had asked Bortner to sentence Jennings to a minimum term of nine months in county prison, while Jennings' attorney, Assistant Public Defender David Miller, noting her lack of any previous criminal history, asked for a term of probation.

Jennings, in addition to serving the prison sentence beginning Nov. 22, was ordered to repay the $6,700 to Scott.