A former rest-home worker who stole jewellery from elderly women in his care said that as the oldest child he felt pressure to support his struggling family.
Juan Paulo Castro Villanueva, 26, was sentenced on two charges of theft in Lower Hutt District Court yesterday.
The thefts were from two elderly women at the Shona McFarlane retirement village in Avalon.
One victim lost two gold rings valued at a total of $10,000.
He stole two rings and a silver necklace from another, worth a total of $7000.
Villanueva sometimes waited until his elderly victims were in the bathroom before stealing jewellery.
The stolen pieces were taken to local secondhand dealers, where Villanueva gave his driver's licence as identification.
This later helped police track him down, after one of the elderly women reported some jewellery stolen.
Villanueva admitted his crimes, but said he could not remember how many pieces he took.
Villanueva stood quietly in the dock today, aided by an interpreter.
His lawyer Keppie Waters said that as the eldest child, Villanueva had felt under pressure to support his struggling Filipino family.
"Unfortunately he made the grave error of doing so in the most unfortunate way."
Waters said Villanueva was remorseful.
He had taken part in restorative justice with the niece of one of his victims, which helped him understand the gravity of his offending.
Judge Peter Hobbs said while Villanueva may have felt pressure to provide for his family, "that is no excuse for the offending".
His victims were vulnerable and had included a 90-year-old woman in poor health.
The stolen jewellery was of high sentimental value, which had added to the emotional toll on the victims.
On each of the two theft charges, Villanueva was convicted and sentenced to four months community detention.
He was also sentenced to 100 hours community service on each charge, and ordered to pay a total of $3400 reparations.
- The Dominion Post