Former nurse Marie Heeraman has repaid $143,000 she stole from ex-partner

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Marie Heeraman has paid back $143,000 she stole from her former partner, a court has heard.Source:News Regional Media

A nurse who fleeced her former lover of his inheritance money and splashed it on bridal gear, homewares and a car has paid back the $143,000 she stole.

Marie Heeraman, 52, promised her former partner she would manage his money for his own good.

But in a crime that left her family and co-workers utterly shocked, she funnelled his funds to her own accounts and, soon after, married another man.

The County Court of Victoria was told on Wednesday Heeraman had repaid the sum to her victim using $132,000 borrowed from her brother and $13,000 from her husband.

Defence lawyer Moya O’Brien said it was a “very strong indicator” of remorse as she urged the court to spare the former aged care worker from prison.

Judge Sarah Dawes said Heeraman was “very fortunate” to have received the loans, as without the repayment her sentencing options would be “very different”.

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Heeraman pleaded guilty in March to a course of conduct theft charge. Picture: David CroslingSource:News Corp Australia

The Malvern woman pleaded guilty in March to a course of conduct theft charge over transferring her former partner’s inheritance money into her own account between October 2014 and August 2016.

The pair had been in a relationship since 2009 and the victim had placed $200,000 into an account controlled by Heeraman.

She promised him she would look after the money, messaging him in June 2016: “I’m truly helping you to spend your dollars wisely and to save and one day you will thank me.”

“Please understand my logic OK? It’s for your best interests because I don’t want you to run out of money,” she wrote.

But she instead stole thousands and, as Judge Dawes put it, “used the money as if it were her own”.

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Around the same time the accounts were opened in 2014, the relationship ended and Heeraman moved in with another man, who she went on to marry.

Up to $46,000 of her ex-partner’s money was withdrawn in cash, $10,000 spent on bridal wear, clothing, shoes, glasses and accessories and another $5000 splashed on homewares.

Heeraman also bought a Peugeot car for $27,000, which she now wishes to transfer to her brother as repayment but prosecutors say it should be forfeited.

Ms O’Brien told the court Heeraman had “drip-fed” money to her ex-partner during this period as she was still concerned for him.

The court heard it was ultimately speculative as to why the victim had allowed Heeraman to have access to his money.

“He was clearly unable to manage his money which is why he allowed her to have access to it in the first place.”

The lawyer asked Judge Dawes to consider putting Heeraman under a community corrections order instead of sending her to prison, citing her guilty plea, the repayment, her clean criminal record and “the fact that she has worked tirelessly in a thankless profession giving back to people with dementia and the like for the last 26 years”.

Her plea was of particular value given “significant credibility issues” of her victim that could have helped her at trial, Ms O’Brien said.

Heerman will never again work as a nurse due to her offending, the court heard.

“To her credit, she’s been a working single mother providing for her son until he turned 17,” Ms O’Brien said.

“Family members and colleagues speak highly of her dedication to her career, particularly towards working with people with dementia.”

The lawyer also said media reports characterising Heeraman as a “gold digger” upset her, as her old relationship was born out of love and had come to a natural end.

But Judge Dawes was sceptical media reporting should carry any weight in sentencing, saying the article in question was “limited and brief” and media attention a natural consequence of criminal offending.

Prosecutor Alexander Albert said Heeraman’s offending was serious, and amounted to stealing “$200 to $250 per day for almost two years”.

He said it was up to the judge whether she saw it as more serious than stealing from an employer.

“Here we have a situation of trust, friendship, a former partner who’s going to look after the funds for the wellbeing of the complainant,” he said.

Heeraman will be sentenced at a later date.

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