'Bed-bound' pensioner who helped mastermind This Morning couple's council fraud on the run in Berlin

Laura Borrell with her husband Philip Borrell on ITV's This Morning programme in 2017.
Credit: ITV
Frances Noble's daughter and son-in-law Laura and Philip Borrell, above, were also convicted for the fraud. Credit: ITV

A "bedbound" pensioner who cheated a council out of £600,000 to fund an extravagant lifestyle for her family is still on the run in Berlin, a court heard.

Frances Noble, 66, was jailed in her absence for four years and nine months in June in what the judge said was possibly the largest fraud of its type to come before the English courts.

She pretended she needed round-the-clock care to claim thousands in benefits from Hertfordshire County Council, while paying for luxury holidays for her daughter and son-in-law.

At proceeds of crime hearing at St Albans crown court, prosecutor Andrew Johnson said Noble was an absconder who had not responded to a statement setting out the criminal benefit she had gained from the council.

An extradition process had begun with the National Crime Agency making an application on behalf of the local authority, he added.

Her daughter Laura Borrell, 45, appeared on a video link from Peterborough prison.

Laura Borrell said she had been forced to give up a law degree and was too nervous to leave the house.

She benefited by £278,813.65 from her part in the criminal activity. Mr Johnson said the money available for confiscation - the proceeds from the home she shared with her husband - was £22,707.

Judge Richard Foster said that she would serve an extra 12 months in prison if that sum was not handed over.

Laura and Philip Borrell had appeared on ITV’s This Morning show to tell Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby that she was one of the youngest people ever to have dementia.

Laura Borrell was jailed for three years and nine months and Philip Borrell for four years and three months for the money they received from Noble's care package.

They and her mother had been living in Damask Green Road, Weston, Herts at the time they were sentenced.

The court heard heard tens of thousands of pounds of the care package money from Hertfordshire County Council was passed onto the Borrells, who went on 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.

But she was seen by her neighbours walking her dog Bertie early in the morning and was videoed by one as she walked around her back garden. Investigators watched as she took in a Tesco home delivery which she was able to unpack.

Prosecutor Mr Johnson said 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.”

Over a 13-year period, between 1 August 2005 and 30 November 2018, Noble had obtained £624,047.15p, the hearing was told.

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 supposedly bed-ridden Noble was seen been pushed in a wheelchair by her daughter around the Bluewater Shopping Centre. 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, washing her hair.

The money went into a single bank account, that should have been 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.

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, he said.

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.”

When neighbours reported her, Noble claimed to her housing association and the police that she had been the victim of harassment and hate crimes, even persuading the housing association to raise the height of her fence to prevent her being caught out again.

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.

“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.

“The Borrells actively deceived This Morning and appeared on the show with Holly and Phil to claim that Mrs Borrell was the youngest person in GB with dementia.”

The council said that since the fraud came to light, staff within the adult social care teams have undergone specific training in relation to identifying fraud.

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

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