Cancer patient ‘felt violated’ after ex-carer used her credit card

A former health care assistant was told in court by a hospital cancer patient whose credit card she used that she felt “violated and vulnerable” by her “predatory and cruel crime”.

Mira Solmaz of Hackney, east London, used the credit cards of cancer patients she was supposed to take care of during the Covid lockdown and when they were unable to see their family, Southwark Crown Court heard.

On Friday, Solmaz, 33, who previously pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and three counts of possession of articles for use in fraud, was sentenced to a total of 15 months’ imprisonment.

In April 2021, Hazel Longhurst, a cancer inpatient at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, became aware her cards were being used despite being in hospital at the time. Her daughter made a police report in April 2021.

Mira Solmaz
Mira Solmaz pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud and three counts of possession of articles for use in fraud (City of London Police/PA)

Approximately £1,500 of fraudulent purchases were made on these cards, the court heard.

Ms Longhurst, 65, who had worked in the NHS for more than 40 years, largely as a district nurse, delivered her own victim impact statement as Solmaz was sentenced.

She told Solmaz: “I was diagnosed with a rare condition which was very severe aplastic anaemia, and this led to life-threatening complications.

“There were periods where I was unconscious and the most physically vulnerable a person could be.

“Whilst in this condition I was targeted by the accused who had assumed I would not live.”

Her daughter reported the “suspicious activity” and her family discovered the cards had been stolen, she told the court.

Ms Longhurst added: “She (her daughter) was in panic and fear as up to this point herself and all my family were unable to visit me as Covid restrictions were in place.

“She feared I would be a target for further crime whilst I was so vulnerable and meant to be cared for.”

Ms Longhurst said she was in “utter disbelief and shock” when she regained consciousness to learn about what had happened.

She said: “I felt violated and vulnerable and became paranoid of any staff entering my room. This had a great impact on my recovery.”

Ms Longhurst, who spent many years working in palliative care, told Solmaz: “I have worked for the NHS for over 40 years and also know how devastating this was for the nurses and staff caring for me.

“Nurses were apologising. They all felt under suspicion and sad for me and my family having to deal with that.

“This crime is so predatory and cruel and has certainly affected my trust in people.”

Solmaz was seen dabbing away at tears as she sat in the dock.

In December 2020, Todd Mallonee, who was also a cancer inpatient at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, noticed his credit card and £60 cash plus other items missing. His wife contacted police on January 2021. Some £360 of transactions on these cards were linked to Solmaz, the police said.

Mr Mallonee died in April 2021, aged 48.

Solmaz bought Apple AirPods, which she described in Whatsapp messages as “a new year’s present” to herself, as well as dental treatments for her partner, the court heard.

There were also clothes from New Look, and she messaged that she had “given myself some therapy”.

Among the items Ms Longhurst’s card was used to pay for was a case for the AirPods she had bought with Mr Mallonee’s card and more than £500 that went to bailiffs to cover an unpaid penalty.

She also used the patient’s card at Deliveroo, Sainsbury’s and to pay for fares on London’s transport network.

The court heard that images were also found on Solmaz’s phone, hidden behind an app made to look like a calculator.

Hazel Longhurst
Hazel Longhurst was a cancer inpatient at St Bartholomew’s Hospital when her cards were fraudulently used by Mira Solmaz (Sam Russell/PA)

These related to cards belonging to three other people, including a nurse whose credit card was stolen while she was at work at the Royal London Hospital.

Judge Gregory Perrins said Solmaz’s actions had been a “calculated decision” which breached the trust of cancer patients, including someone who was terminally ill, whom she was supposed to support during their hospital stay.

He told Solmaz: “You were enthusiastically using these cards,” adding: “Your partner was urging restraint, but you were the one who was insisting on use.”

In regard to Mr Mallonee, the judge said: “The fact that he had to deal with this offence and the police while he was dying of cancer must have been profoundly distressing for him.”

Solmaz had also previously pleaded guilty to one count of entering into a money laundering arrangement, but no separate penalty was applied on this charge.

Prosecutor Vivek D’Cruz said: “These were simply appalling offences. They were cruel, cynical and ruthless in the way they targeted cancer patients at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.”

Charlotte O’Connor, defending, said things went “catastrophically wrong” for Solmaz after she got married – a relationship that did not work out.

She described Solmaz as an “extremely damaged young woman (who) is trying to address the complex mental health issues that she has”.

Ms O’Connor added: “Perhaps the greatest punishment is that she will not be able to work again in the sector that she extremely loved and was well thought of (in) for a number of years.”

After sentencing, City of London Police Detective Constable Stacie Cottrell said: “Mira Solmaz violated the trust and confidence of two vulnerable patients placed in her care, where the families of the victims expected their loved ones to be looked after.

“I would like to extend my condolences to Todd’s family and friends. I’m saddened that he wasn’t able to see Solmaz brought to justice.”