A son forged his dementia-stricken mother’s signature to sell his house and bought a Rolex, laptop and jewelry with the proceeds.
Andrew Cates, 54, sold his mother’s three-bedroom house in Ainsdale at a reduced price and spent £80,000 of the proceeds in just nine months, including buying himself a Rolex watch and gold jewellery. Liverpool Crown Court heard on Friday (April 1) that he rarely visits his elderly mother and that fees at the care home, where she has now been for seven years, have not been paid.
Recorder Ian Harris, QC said: ‘This offense was cruel, selfish and calculated. This is the type of offense that violates the rights of others. A reference described Cates as “kind and compassionate,” but the judge added, “Those words are unfortunately inconsistent with the way you treated your mother.”
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The author of the pre-sentence report said Cates did not appear “particularly remorseful and showed no empathy for the victim”. Recorder Harris added: “This is apparent from the letter you sent to the court explaining – which I do not accept – the reasons for your offence.
Cates had also received a letter from her daughter, but recorder Harris said she was “spoiled” by the warnings she had given her father about his actions in the text messages. The judge said: “These were warnings for you to stop flaunting the wealth you had obtained dishonestly.”
Cates, of Salford Road, Ainsdale, who pleaded guilty to fraud by misrepresentation between November 1, 2018 and April 30, 2019, was jailed for two and a half years. Prosecuting Carmel Wilde told Liverpool Crown Court the case involved Cates forging her mother’s signature on a durable power of attorney (LPA) in order to gain the right to sell her house.
Cates’ mother had suffered from dementia since 2009 and moved from her home on Berwick Avenue to a nursing home in June 2015. The woman, now 75, was officially found unable to make decisions in September 2018.
The breach came to light after Sefton Borough Council approached a trust company to be appointed as a ‘professional assistant’ after her care resulted in an £85,000 debt and there was no contact with family members. The claim was filed in December 2018 and a trust company representative visited the retirement home and learned that the pensioner had two sons, one of whom they had never heard of, and the defendant.
Miss Wilde said: ‘It has been confirmed that it had been years since the complainant had a visitation and the last contact with the defendant was by telephone in September 2015 when he allowed his mother to go get vaccinated against the flu. A notice regarding the claim was served on the defendant on January 7, 2019 in which he was told that he could object to the Court of Protection, which he did later that month.
The trust representative expected the property to still be in the pensioner’s name and was ‘concerned that the property had been sold by the defendant as a power of attorney from his mother’. Inquiries have revealed he registered the PLA on January 14 – just a week after learning of the trust’s bid to become the ‘professional assistant’.
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The LPA is believed to have been signed by her mother on November 10 the previous year, although there is no evidence Cates visited the house that day, Miss Wilde said. Suspicions that the LPA had been obtained fraudulently were confirmed when it was discovered that she had been diagnosed with dementia since 2009.
Miss Wilde said the property was estimated to be priced at £149,000 and two months later, after some renovations, it was resold by the developer for £146,000.
Two text messages sent by Cates’ daughter in July of that year warning her of her Facebook posts were found when her mobile phone was examined after a police raid. One of them said: “dad, you’re not going to get caught especially if you’re on Facebook?” and the other apparently saying his brother was “ranting” about the house.
When asked, Cates said he visited his mother but didn’t always connect. He had previously been her carer and maintained that she had signed the APL and knew what she was doing.
He said he believed the council had paid for his retirement home and had spent some of the proceeds from the house to buy a laptop, a Rolex watch, a gold chain and a ring. The court heard that he had given money and granted loans to friends.
Frank Dillon, defending, said Cates had only one prior conviction for taking a car without consent a decade ago. He said Cates was caring for his mother and they had ‘a tacit agreement’ that the house would return to him in due course, but it was admitted that was not the same as a document legally restrictive.
The LPA was signed in 2018 but didn’t register until the following year when it “appeared the house was up for grabs”. Mr Dillon added that the defendant’s mother “fortunately was unaware of the fraud”.