A WEALTHY Parkinson’s sufferer who was cheated out of half a million pounds by her carers was paying up to £40,000 a month in care - nearly twice what she should have been spending, a court heard.
Audrey Hammond, 92, was allegedly conned by three women who are now on trial accused of plotting to swindle the pensioner by inflating the cost of looking after her - and running a burger business from her Dales house.
Wendy Bell, 57, her daughter, Lisa Bell, 30 and Helen Banks, 42 - all from Bradford - all deny conspiracy to defraud Mrs Hammond. Wendy Bell pleads not guilty to two further fraud allegations.
A court has heard after they were arrested she was looked after by another care company, and her monthly costs dropped from £40,000 to around £21,000 - £22,000 a month.
The jury was told on Thursday that Amanda Carroll, 44, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two charges of fraud at an earlier hearing.
Bradford Crown Court heard today that Mrs Hammond had around two million pound in banks an building societies at the time of the
Her solicitor, Myron Handzij, said she also owns three farms, all with tenants.
He told the court he had sold a fourth farm to a sitting tenant for half a million pounds, which was probably half of what it was worth.
He said that his client lived in a listed building - Ings House in Cracoe, and although he didn’t know its exact price he told the court it would be quite valuable.
Mr Hanzij, of Turner and Wall Solicitors, Keighley, told the court Mrs Hammond, and her late husband had been with the firm for 40 or 50 years.
He said Mrs Hammond asked him to draw up an enduring power of attorney for her in 2003.
This is the legal authorisation to act on someone behalf in legal or business matters - even if they become mentally unable to carry out their affairs.
In 2007 Mrs Hammond, due to her condition, was unable to write cheques, so she asked Mr Handzij firm to write them for, they would be instructed what to pay out for and when, and then write out the appropriate cheques.
This included paying Mrs Hammond’s carers, who were already employed by her.
Stephen Wood, prosecuting, said: “Once you became effectively Mrs Hammond’s hand wrting the cheques, what were the arrangments for paying the carers?”
Mr Handzij said: “Mandy or Wendy would send me an email giving me a list of cheques required and payees of those cheques.”
“You were provided with names and the amounts the cheques were to be written?”
asked Mr Wood.
Mr Handzij replied: “Yes, that’s correct.”
Mr Wood told the court that in the first four months of 2010 there was just over £121,000 spent on care, along with some expenses.
And, by late 2012, monthly costs were around £35,000 - 40,000. On one occasion they exceeded £40,000.
When asked if he ever questioned the large cheques being written, Mr Hanzij said he thought about it all the time.
“I used to say to her I could have bought a nursing home for her to live in with the amount of money she had spent on carers,” he said.
Mr Handzij told the court the new care company charges between £21,000 and £22,000 a month. They also submit a formal invoice that has a breakdown of carers times and dates worked.
The court heard Mr Handzij discussed Mrs Hammond’s financial affairs with her on regular meeting throughout the year.
He said he would have been exceeding his position to question the figures being paid out.
Mr Handzij told the court “it was Mrs Hammond’s money, it was being paid for her care and it was care she had originally chosen.”
Speaking in his opening on Thursday, Mr. Wood said: “What was going on here was that Mrs Hammond was simply being taken advantage of.
“These defendants - particularly Amanda Carroll and Wendy Bell - thought they were utterly untouchable.”
He described how the widow’s fortune claimed by “grotesque overpayments” was transferred through multiple, unsuspecting relatives’ accounts to avoidsuspicion.
The court heard previously that Wendy Bell was allegedly overpaid by £138,620 between 2010 and2012, while Amanda Carroll stole £225,850 for her own use.
Linda Mynott, 60, Caron Gilbert, 33 and Alice Barker, 59 - all of Keighley, - had previously admitted the conspiracy offence.
Alice Barker’s husband, Edward Barker, 57, of Keighley, was too ill to stand trial.