A highly-respected health worker who conned her friends out of £35,000 has been jailed for two years.
Irene Kitto, 57, a healthcare assistant in Scarborough, borrowed tens of thousands from three close friends on the false premise that she would repay them when she received a lump-sum NHS pension pay-out following her retirement, York Crown Court heard.
In fact, there was no such payment due, but Kitto’s friends - two of them fellow nurses - had no idea they were being duped.
Over nearly two years, Kitto, who worked at the Cross Lane mental-health unit, ‘borrowed’ £35,552 from her best friends, telling each one not to tell the others that she had received any loans.
During her wicked scheme, Kitto used some of the money to bask in a lavish holiday.
Prosecutor Jonathan Sharp said that Kitto, who worked in the NHS for over 30 years, had been paying into a pension scheme but had “little or no” pension entitlement.
However, she told the three middle-aged victims that she was due a “substantial sum” in the hundreds of thousands.
“But she said there was a problem in being paid out, so she asked these three people repeatedly for loans to tide her over,” said Mr Sharp.
She told one friend she was due an inordinately-large pension because she had been paying bigger contributions after her husband fell ill and was unable to work.
The brazen fraudster even showed her friends documents purporting that she was entitled to a large pay-out.
Kitto had forged the documentation but the esteemed healthcare worker “beguiled” her friends into believing they were genuine.
She duped one colleague out of £17,000 between September 2016 and October 2017, at which point the victim had no money left to loan her.
“When (the victim's) money was about to run out, (Kitto) moved on to two further victims,” added Mr Sharp.
One loaned her friend £8,600 in “17 tranches”, and the other lent her £9,952, trying to help her friend despite being so concerned as to ask her to sign an ‘IOU’ .
Crafty Kitto “rather cynically” wrote an addendum to the ‘IOU’ instructing her husband - who was blissfully unaware of the ruse – to “please pay her out of my pension”.
“The defendant persuaded (one victim) to pay £4,500 for a holiday for four people to celebrate the defendant’s retirement,” said Mr Sharp.
Kitto, of Wheelhouse Square, Scarborough, even told her friends she had hired a solicitor to iron out “difficulties there had been in in the lump-sum being paid out”.
“She gave various dates when the money was supposed to be due, fobbing her victims off and repeatedly asking her victims not to tell anyone else that she was borrowing money off that
individual,” said Mr Sharp.
Kitto’s duplicity began to unravel in July this year when she was supposed to meet one of the friends at a local bank to repay the money, but she didn’t turn up after trying to take her own life by taking an overdose.
One of the friends said she now realised that the “friendship must all have been a sham”.
She said: “I believed that (Kitto) was one of my trusted friends. I viewed her as a woman who had been dealt a bad hand.
I believed her without question. I feel devasted and annoyed that someone I trusted so completely could be so cruel. I feel so hurt and bewildered by it all.”
Another of the victims, who first met Kitto when she was a student nurse, said she had looked up to her erstwhile colleague as a “role model”.
“I (now) realise this was not real,” she added. “I felt sorry for her that she could be treated so badly and was having to fight for her pension. What she has done has affected me emotionally and financially.”
The woman, who has received counselling to help her cope with her friend’s betrayal, added: “I feel manipulated, used and betrayed by my close friend.”
She took out a large loan to lend Kitto money and everything she now earned was now used to repay that debt.
Kitto owned up immediately following her arrest for the grand hoax. She admitted three counts of fraud between August 2016 and July 2018. She appeared for sentence on Friday.
Defence barrister Stephen Robinson said Kitto had duped her friends after falling into financial difficulties.
Judge Andrew Stubbs QC jailed Kitto for two years for the “cruel” deception.