Worker stole from rest-home residents

PAUL EASTON
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2012

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A rest-home worker waited until his elderly victims were in the bathroom before stealing jewellery worth thousands of dollars.

Juan Paulo Castro Villanueva, 26, stole dozens of pieces while he was a caregiver for two elderly women in poor health at Shona McFarlane retirement village in Avalon.

They included a nine-carat gold ring worth $3500, a necklace worth $1400 and a gold ring valued at $495.

More than $10,000 worth of jewellery was stolen from one of the women. Pieces valued at $4900 remain unrecovered.

Villanueva, who pleaded guilty to two charges of theft in Lower Hutt District Court on Friday, made 13 trips to local secondhand dealers Cash Converters and The Tool Box to offload the jewellery.

He provided his driver's licence as identification. This later helped police to 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.

He told police he would wait until the women were in the bathroom before taking their jewellery.

Judge Jan Kelly remanded him until next month for sentencing.

His lawyer said he hoped to attend restorative justice meetings with his victims' families to express his "apologies and remorse".

The case followed claims by Stan Gyles that $20,000 of jewellery was stolen from his late mother at Malvina Major rest home in Johnsonville last year. Though police investigated, no-one was charged.

Both homes are owned by Ryman Healthcare, a publicly listed company that runs 25 retirement villages caring for more than 6000 residents.

The company warns residents to insure jewellery and says it is not responsible for valuables.

Ryman chief executive Simon Challies said the thefts were terrible: "We put people in a position of trust to look after our residents."

Ryman had asked all Shona McFarlane residents if they had any jewellery missing, and compensated them if necessary. Between $10,000 and $15,000 was paid out to seven or eight residents, he said.

"Some of this jewellery may have been lost, but we have taken them at face value. We need to rebuild that trust."

The company had also reviewed its recruitment procedures, he said.

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- The Dominion Post

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