Woman, 80, avoids jail time must repay woman she bilked

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EVERETT, Wash. (AP) _ An 80-year-old Everett woman has avoided jail time but must pay back $23,000 she stole from her ailing neighbor.

A Snohomish County Superior Court judge agreed Tuesday not to send Ella Harris to jail for first-degree theft. But she was ordered to pay restitution to her 74-year-old victim by early August.

The Daily Herald reports that prosecutors allege Harris stole nearly $70,000 from her vulnerable neighbor between 2011 and 2014 to feed a gambling habit. Court documents show the victim had dementia and was easily confused.

Authorities say Harris wrote dozens of checks from her friend’s account and used the woman’s debit card to withdraw money.

Defense lawyer Elizabeth Mustin said Harris believed her neighbor had loaned her money.

The theft came to light in 2014 after Bank of America employees noticed irregular activities on the victim’s account and reported it to police.