Healthy woman claimed she was bedridden to claim benefits of over £600,000

A fraudster who claimed she was bedridden to con more than £600,000 has been locked up, with the judge saying it was possibly the largest fraud of its type to come before the English courts.

Frances Noble, 66, fooled social workers to swindle tens of thousands of pounds of the care package money from Hertfordshire County Council.

The money was then passed onto her daughter and son-in-law who went on to enjoy luxury North American holidays in Canada, San Francisco, Boston and Orlando.

Between 2005 and 2018, Noble convinced the council that her condition was so serious that she required intensive, round the clock home care at her bungalow in Datchworth near Stevenage, Hertfordshire.

But she was seen by her neighbours walking her dog Bertie early in the morning and videoed by one of them as she walked around her back garden.

Investigators watched as she took a Tesco home delivery which she was able to unpack.

Healthy woman claimed she was bedridden to claim benefits of over £600,000

Laura and Philip Borrell arriving at St Albans Crown Court ( Image: south bedsnews agency_sbna_fairleys)

Prosecutor Andrew Johnson told St Albans Crown Court when one neighbour saw Noble in her back garden she pulled a hood over her face and said: “I am not Frances. I am her carer.”

Noble, of Weston, Hertfordshire, who has been living in Berlin since 2019, did not appear for her sentencing hearing on Friday having earlier pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

She had moved to Germany with her daughter and son-in-law after the investigation began.

A warrant will be issued for her arrest and extradition after she was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison.

Laura Borrell and Philip Borrell, both 45, also of Damask Green Road, Weston, have each pleaded guilty to money laundering and both accepted receiving £184,205.

Laura accepted receiving another £39,700 and Philip £6,218. They are due to be sentenced next month after probation reports have been prepared.

The couple were both in court to hear the prosecutor open the case. Philip had to help Laura, who was walking with a stick, into the dock.

Mr Johnson said over a 13-year period, between August 1, 2005 and November 30, 2018, Frances Noble had obtained £624,047.15.

Noble had been granted a 'direct payment care package' which allows people with disabilities, or their family members and friends, to choose carers and equipment and settle bills.

On one occasion, the supposedly bed-ridden Noble was seen being pushed in a wheelchair by her daughter around the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent.

Noble, who had claimed she had been on a liquid diet, was filmed eating with her daughter in a restaurant.

On another occasion, a care worker turned up at her home to find her standing up, naked in the bathroom and washing her hair.

The money went into a single bank account that should solely be for the purpose of direct payment to carers.

On the most generous definition, less that £100,000 was spent on care, said Mr Johnson.

Healthy woman claimed she was bedridden to claim benefits of over £600,000

Frances Noble (left) and Laura Rorrell ( Image: south bedsnews agency_sbna_fairleys)

He said: “Funds that were paid to her were funds that would have been used to support the residents of Hertfordshire.”

Noble had “dishonestly and deliberately” lied to social workers.

Mr Johnson said: “The central lie was the suggestion that she was bed-bound for a very significant period.

“But it is quite plain, she was simply not bed-bound. She misled the local [council] and many others, including her treating doctor.

“She claimed a variety of people were carers when they did nothing. She sent a number of emails from carers. Those emails had nothing to do with them [the carers], they were fake emails.

“She spun a web of lies to everyone she came into contact.”

One social worker said it was unusual for a person who had been bed-ridden for many years not to have deteriorated despite her inability to move.

When neighbours reported her, Noble claimed to her Housing Association and the police that she had been the victim of harassment and hate crimes.

She even persuaded the Housing Association to raise the height of her fence to prevent her being caught out again, the court heard.

Healthy woman claimed she was bedridden to claim benefits of over £600,000

St Albans Crown Court

The investigators also found a video she made inside her home in June 2013 which showed her walking around and filming herself in a mirror.

The Borrells themselves made headlines when they appeared on ITV's This Morning programme where Laura, then aged 39, told Phillip Scofield and Holly Willoughby that she was one of the youngest people ever to be diagnosed with dementia.

Ben Newton, defending Noble, said: “She had genuine and serious health issues.”

He added that Noble had been diagnosed with depression since 1999 and a history of mental health problems.

He went on to say she had no previous convictions and there was no suggestion the money funded a lavish lifestyle.

“She was not going on expensive foreign holidays and buying luxury items,” he said.

Jailing her, Judge Richard Foster said: “This is possibly the largest fraud of its type to come before the English courts.”

“The cost of social care is an enormous burden on the tax payer,” he went on, adding that taxpayers were the victims of her fraud.

The judge, who bailed the Borrells, said they must prepare themselves for immediate prison sentences.

He said almost a third of the money had gone to her daughter and son-in-law and £184,000 into Noble's personal bank account.

The judge said: “You made [them] believe you were bed-bound. You spun a web of lies and deceit including sending emails purporting to be from carers.”

The judge paid tribute to Hertfordshire County Council's Philip Juhasz who led the investigation.

A proceeds of crime hearing will be at a later date.

A spokesperson for Hertfordshire County Council said:”Mrs Noble, her daughter and her son-in-law undertook a sophisticated and devious fraud that shamelessly sought to deceive health and social services professionals over a sustained period of time.

“We are pleased to see a custodial sentence handed down to Mrs Noble reflecting the seriousness of her offences.

“The trio's offences were planned, calculated and carried out with the intention of abusing a care system designed first and foremost to meet the requirements of those in need of support.

“We will now be using the Proceeds of Crime Act and other civil recovery methods – including the forced sale of the Borrell's home – to attempt to recover every penny de-frauded so that it can go towards supporting those that genuinely need our help.”

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