A Dorset woman who blew more than £65,000 of her mother's savings rather than use it to pay care home fees has avoided jail.

Constanza Esposito's dementia-suffering mother Marja Archer had to sell her flat for £106,000 after moving into a residential home.

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Bournemouth Echo: Constanza Esposito. Picture: BNPSConstanza Esposito. Picture: BNPS

Her daughter was given power of attorney over her mother's finances and was meant to use the proceeds of the sale to meet the pensioner's £28,000-a-year care costs.

Esposito, aged 56, of Benville Road, Weymouth paid the first 12 months of fees but 'frittered' away the rest, Bournemouth Crown Court heard.

She spent it on her extended family and made extravagant purchases in stores including Curry's, Argos and DFS as well as trips to London and a Butlins holiday.

After a year, Esposito contacted her local authority to explain her mother had no more money left to pay for her care homes fees and asked for help from the state.

Esposito was told by Judge Robert Pawson that she had defrauded the taxpayer.

He added: "You may not like the care system, lots of people don't, but they don't become fraudsters."

Bournemouth Echo: Constanza Esposito. Picture: BNPSConstanza Esposito. Picture: BNPS

A court heard Mrs Archer, 77, was diagnosed with moderate cognitive impairment in March 2017 and admitted to a residential care home in March 2018. It was decided her stay should become permanent in May.

Her flat in Weymouth was sold and as she had capital above £23,250, she was responsible for the costs of her own care for the first three years.

Esposito was appointed lasting power of attorney three days after the flat sale and began using her mother's account almost immediately.

Andrew Houston, prosecuting, said: "Ms Esposito was managing her mother's account, she paid £28,500 on care.

"But one year into that three-year period she contacted the council to request financial assistance and it was found her mother only had £3,500 remaining.

"Bank statements obtained revealed heavy expenditure on the account. The purchases came to just under £16,000 and cash withdrawals of just over £51,500."

Mr Houston added: "Mrs Archer is still being housed at the care home and the local authority, effectively the taxpayer, is now funding her care so the loss is to the public purse.

"The state has had to pay two years worth of care fees that should have been paid by Mrs Archer from her sale of the flat."

Richard Martin, defending, told Bournemouth Crown Court that Esposito was in £6,000 of debt and the money had been spent and spread amongst a "very large family".

He said Mrs Archer had said she wanted the money to go to her family.

He said: "This was not a case where a vulnerable old lady is taken advantage of. It is more along the lines of benefit fraud."

Esposito, from Weymouth, pleaded guilty to a charge that she dishonestly abused her position for her own gain based on a figure of £50,000.

In handing her a suspended prison sentence, Judge Pawson told her: "You have defrauded every member of the public in this country and you were doing it out of self interest.

"You frittered that money away, whatever way you dress it up you spent large sums of money which wasn't yours to spend.

"You may not like the care system, lots of people don't, but they don't become fraudsters.

"Realistically there is no way of getting that money back. The local authority may seek to recover it, that's a matter for them, it would serve you right if you lose money from your benefits in an attempt to recoup it.

"It was a deliberate attempt to dissipate your mother's funds to feather your own and your immediate family's nest.

"This was pretty selfish, profligate spending over quite a long period of time."

Judge Pawson gave Esposito a 20-month suspended jail term. He also imposed a curfew requirement for Esposito to remain home between 7pm and 6am for 10 months.