'Greedy' carers jailed for fraud
Two "greedy" carers who defrauded an elderly Parkinson's sufferer out of more than half a million pounds have been jailed.
Wendy Bell and Amanda Carroll were sentenced with four others at Bradford Crown Court for the "cruel and heartless" fraud against 92-year-old Audrey Hammond.
The carers inflated the cost of Mrs Hammond's care to "filch" the wealthy widow out of more than £500,000.
Bell, 57, from Cullingworth, West Yorkshire, was jailed for three years and six months. Carroll, 44, of Shipley, West Yorks, was sentenced to three years and five months.
Bell's daughter, Lisa Bell, 30, Linda Mynott, 60, and Alice Barker, 59, all received suspended jail sentences.
A sixth carer, Caron Gilbert, 33, was handed a 12-month community order.
Judge Colin Burn told them: "This case was brought by the prosecution against all of you on the basis that it's obvious from the figures and the comparisons with the work diary entries that overcharging for the care of Mrs Hammond in her own home between February 2010 to September 2012 was so excessive that it must have been dishonest.
"There could be, in the crown's case, no other explanation."
Judge Burn said Wendy Bell and Carroll played a leading role in the fraud.
He said: "You must take the central responsibility for a scheme which exposed Mrs Hammond, wealthy though she was, to massive financial loss resulting from blatant dishonesty."
The trial of Wendy and Lisa Bell heard that Wendy Bell and Carroll recruited friends and family to become carers for Mrs Hammond at her home in Cracoe, near Skipton, North Yorkshire.
None of the people employed by Bell and Carroll had any qualifications to care for a patient with Parkinson's disease. They were not appropriately registered and had not undergone checks with the Criminal Records Bureau.
The court heard that Mrs Hammond is a very wealthy woman. Her family and late husband built up a considerable fortune as coal merchants and she owns substantial interests in land and farms in North Yorkshire.
As the widow's health declined, she appointed a solicitor to act as power of attorney and authorised him to write cheques on her behalf, as she was physically incapable of doing so.
Giles Bridge, prosecuting, said the defendants "created the opportunity for some carers to filch money from Mrs Hammond and line their own pockets".
Between February 2010 and September 2012, Wendy Bell and Carroll requested payment from the solicitor for work which had not been undertaken.
They also made requests for inflated petty cash payments.
By the time police became involved in September 2012, Mrs Hammond was paying £35,000 every four weeks for her care. This was reduced to £20,000 when a professional care company took over.
Judge Burn told the court that during the two-year eight-month period, Carroll was overpaid by around £220,000, Wendy Bell by around £139,000, Lisa Bell by around £50,000, Mynott by around £39,000, Barker by around £52,000 and Gilbert by around £16,000.
Opening the case last month, Stephen Wood, prosecuting, said: "There is no doubt that Mrs Hammond was subjected to a cruel and heartless fraud by the greedy. People she trusted to look after her betrayed that trust."