A cleaner who blackmailed an elderly man by threatening to tell police that he had sexually assaulted her has been jailed.
Linda Thomas, 62, got the the man in his 80s to pay her £10,000, but was caught after she demanded the same amount again not to report the false allegation and bank staff, suspicious about such large withdrawals, raised the alarm with the police.
Thomas, of Briscwm Cottages, Cardigan, west Wales, was found guilty of blackmailing the pensioner, who cannot be named for legal reasons, in October 2015 after a trial at Swansea Crown Court in June.
On Monday, Judge Geraint Walters said the offence happened after the man kissed Thomas as they parted company, something that the man told the court happened frequently between them as a greeting.
“Once he had done that, you told him that you were going to make an allegation that he had sexually touched you if he were not to pay you the sum of £10,000,” said Judge Walters.
“(A few days later) you telephoned him and told him that you wanted that £10,000 or you were going to tell the police that he had touched you on the breast, something which he had in fact never done.
“That day, following the conversation, your victim went to the bank and withdrew £8,000 in cash.
“You went to his home later that day and collected the £8,000, telling him that the money was £2,000 short.”
The court heard the man returned to his bank two days later and Thomas collected the further sum three days after that.
Judge Walters said: “When you did so, you told him that you needed another £10,000 and promised him that if he were to pay that, that would be your last demand of him.
“He went to the bank again, this time seeking to withdraw another £10,000.”
The court heard staff at the bank had been suspicious when the man withdrew the first two sums, but that he had told them he planned to give the cash to family members.
On his third visit, staff took him into a room and quizzed him again, getting him to reveal Thomas’ blackmail.
Judge Walters said the “elderly, vulnerable gentleman” had “no desire” to involve the police but was persuaded to stay in the bank while they were contacted and arrived.
He said Thomas “grossly abused” the man’s confidence in her and played on the fact she knew he would be acutely embarrassed “about being labelled a sexual predator”.
“But for the care that the staff of the bank ... showed, you would have got away with receiving £20,000 and what you had done would have forever remained a secret,” he added.
The court heard Thomas had a previous conviction for shoplifting in 1993 and for three offences of benefit fraud in 2010.
Dyfed Thomas, for the prosecution, read a victim statement supplied by a member of the man’s family, who said the incident had made a “huge difference to him”.
Mr Thomas said the man had gone from being active to “withdrawn and something of a recluse”.
Dean Pulling, for the defence, said there was “no great level of sophistication or high-level of planning involved” in the offence and that Thomas lived an “uncomplicated” life with her cat and her dog.
He said she suffered from anxiety, depression and various other health concerns.
“Both her mother and her sister have taken their own lives and she has struggled with that loss, as is clear from the letter from her GP,” he said.
Mr Pulling added that Thomas, who wept in the dock as he spoke on her behalf, was assessed as a low risk of reoffending.
Judge Walters said Thomas, who maintained her innocence despite the verdict of the jury, had not shown any remorse or desire to repay the money.
She was sentenced to 18 months in prison.