Carer who conned almost £100k from pensioner jailed
A carer who jetted to Barbados after she admitting conning nearly £100,000 from a pensioner has been jailed for six years for her "despicable" crimes.
Toni Chippendale, 56, was photographed in a national newspaper sunbathing topless on the island as she awaited sentence for duping Geoffrey Cooke, 86, out of his life savings and leaving him homeless.
On Friday, hours before she was finally locked up at Preston Crown Court, she brazenly insisted on her innocence, despite guilty pleas last month, and told a probation officer that she was "a giver not a taker".
That comment drew gasps in the public gallery from the family of her victim before Judge Graham Knowles QC told her directly: "You are a cheat, a liar and a thief. Your crimes are despicable. You must be severely punished."
The judge compared Chippendale, of Ingol, Preston, to "a smiler with a knife under the cloak" as he outlined how she fleeced Mr Cooke from 2006 onwards after caring for him since the late 1990s.
Retired aerospace worker Mr Cooke was in poor health and struggling to look after his son John, 57, who had Down's Syndrome, following the death of his wife, Joan, in 1998.
Chippendale initially cared for the Cookes when employed by a private firm, but offered her services independently when she set up her own business.
Mr Cooke senior was said in to be thrall to Chippendale, and believed every word she said.
It led to Chippendale persuading him to agree to her becoming a third party signatory on his bank account in 2000.
Statements later showed large sums of money being withdrawn from Mr Cooke's account, while in December 2006, Mr Cooke's property in Greyfriars Crescent, Fulwood, was sold for £176,000.
Chippendale helped to organise the sale, transferring the money into her account before returning £74,000 to Mr Cooke's bank account - which he believed was the sum the property had sold for.
Years later, his family alerted police when Mr Cooke rang his daughter to ask her for some money to buy cigarettes.
Chippendale admitted to taking £74,000 as part of the house sale, and a further £25,000 in overcharging for care services. She entered guilty pleas in May to one count of theft committed between December 2006 and January 2007 and one count of fraud between January 2009 and March 2012.
But she was initially arrested in March 2013 and denied any guilt in police interviews.
Both Mr Cooke and his son died before she finally admitted the offences in court.
In a victim impact statement, his daughter, Cath Bermingham, said that when the truth of the con began to emerge, her father was "heartbroken that this woman he had trusted had robbed him in such a callous way".
She said he died homeless, penniless, a shadow of his former self, and had been denied the opportunity to see justice.
Barry Kogan, representing Chippendale, of Whitby Avenue, said his client apologised to the Cooke family for her actions and was genuinely remorseful, but Judge Knowles rejected that assertion as he told her: "All the evidence points to the contrary. You pity yourself."
The judge continued: "Geoffrey Cooke and John Cooke were human beings. You treated them as if they counted for nothing. Your view of them by December 2006 was that they were just easy prey and you were seen as a trusted friend which makes your crimes worse."
The court heard that a pre-sentence report from a probation officer could not be undertaken until shortly before sentencing on Friday, as Chippendale had flown to Barbados to see friends following conviction and was "out of contact".
Chippendale was sentenced to six years for the fraud and four years, to run concurrently, for theft.
Following sentencing, Detective Sergeant Scott Griffin, of Lancashire Police's Economic Crime Unit, said: "While Chippendale has been sentenced today, we believe she worked as a carer for other people in the Preston area at the time of these offences.
"If you suspect you've been a victim of these types of crimes, please contact Lancashire Police on 101.
"We take all reports of this nature seriously."