A woman who stole over £1,500 from a vulnerable married couple is facing a potential prison sentence.
Giovanna Chirico, 36, of Barton Close in Worthing, pleaded not guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation – but was found guilty by magistrates on October 5.
At a sentencing hearing at Worthing Magistrates’ Court yesterday (October 29), the court heard how the theft of £1,569.23 from Michael and Mavis Shoesmith, had left them feeling ‘betrayed’ and affected their health.
In a victim statement, 81-year-old Mrs Shoesmith said: “I thought Giovanna was a friend, but it turns out she wasn’t – she was just trying to take advantage of me to get to my bank account.
“Before this happened I didn’t really feel old, but now I do.”
The court heard that in December last year the Shoesmiths, who did not know Chirico very well at the time, noticed a children’s birthday party at Chirico’s house and dropped off a gift.
Mrs Shoesmith said Chirico then began to invite herself to their house for ‘random reasons’ such as needing to use the toilet or asking for a glass of water.
Soon after, money began going missing from two debit card accounts, the stress of which, said Mrs Shoesmith, forced her to hospital with a recurrence of a heart condition, leaving her on medication.
She said she is wary of leaving her the house as she ‘dreads the thought’ of coming across Chirico in the street. The couple are unable to move house as Mrs Shoesmith’s husband, Michael, uses ceiling hoists to move around their home.
Chirico’s probation officer said she had been on anti-depressants and struggling to cope since the loss of her partner, Mark Trussler, in 2015’s Shoreham Airshow crash.
“Since the sad loss of her partner she hasn’t been thinking clearly,” she said. “She is beginning to accept that she needs help.”
Mr Trussler was one of 11 men who died in the disaster in August, 2015.
Chirico’s defence argued a custodial sentence would see her children placed into care and would coincide with January’s trial of the pilot at the centre of the Shoreham Airshow crash.
As she would probably be expected to give evidence in the trial, her defence said, she would need support during what was likely to be a difficult time.
Chief magistrate Anthony Clark acknowledged the ‘very serious’ nature of the offence and the fact it took place while Chirico was serving a suspended sentence for possessing a controlled drug with intent to supply.
He said it held the possibility of a sentence that ‘exceeds our powers in this court’ and referred the case to Lewes Crown Court, with a hearing date of November 26.