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From buddy to bandit: Woman stole $300,000 from friend to feed pokie habit

Each day Shirley Ann Eiby would visit her dear friend at a nursing home.

Feb 16, 2023, updated Feb 16, 2023
Shirley Ann Eiby (right) has been given a suspended five year jail sentence for a fraud charge after using the power of attorney to withdraw almost $300,000 of her ill friend's money. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Shirley Ann Eiby (right) has been given a suspended five year jail sentence for a fraud charge after using the power of attorney to withdraw almost $300,000 of her ill friend's money. (AAP Image/Darren England)

And each day Eiby would dishonestly withdraw money from the stroke victim’s accounts – almost $300,000 in total – to spend on poker machines.

Eiby, 80, faced Brisbane District Court on Thursday for what Judge Vicki Loury described as elder abuse.

“That it was committed by an elderly woman is frankly breathtaking,” Loury said.

The friend had appointed Eiby enduring power of attorney for financial matters before she suffered a stroke in July 2018, the court heard.

She was non-verbal and cognitively impaired after the stroke, no longer having the capacity to make financial decisions.

To provide some comfort, Eiby visited her friend at an aged care facility daily.

She also began defrauding her friend daily.

From September 2018 to January 2019 Eiby dishonestly withdrew $289,604 from her friend’s accounts in 149 transactions.

She blew it all on poker machines.

Eiby had become stressed about the health of her friend and her husband of 56 years, who she also visited every day.

He has been in palliative care for years and may have only weeks to live.

Gambling provided Eiby relief from her anxiety, the court heard.

Eiby lost more than $240,000 at Brisbane’s Treasury Casino and another $4500 in just two visits at Gold Coast’s The Star.

She also sustained gambling losses at Coorparoo’s Easts Leagues Club, the court heard.

In January 2019 Eiby was investigated after a complaint about her conduct from a staff member at her friend’s nursing home.

Eiby told investigators that she had spent the withdrawn money on renovations to her friend’s house.

Eiby was charged in October 2019 and was no longer able to visit her friend under bail conditions.

Her friend died in June 2020.

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“Your defrauding her meant that she was left without the comfort and support that you provided to her in her dying days,” Loury said.

Eiby received $1.19 million in her friend’s will.

No other will beneficiaries sustained losses despite Eiby’s offending, the court heard.

“You did not know how long your friend would have to live and you did not know how much money she might have needed to pay for her care throughout the rest of her life,” Loury said.

“It is indeed lucky that she did not need it.”

Eiby – who has no criminal history – has since expressed shame and embarrassment, the court heard.

“What you did amounts to elder abuse,” Loury said.

“You had a significant responsibility placed on you to act honestly … the only thing you were thinking about every time you took money from her account was yourself.”

Eiby pleaded guilty to one count of fraud to the value of $100,000 or more.

She was sentenced to five years in jail.

However, the sentence was wholly suspended for five years and Eiby left the court, using a walking frame.

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