A carer who was in financial “dire straits” fraudulently claimed more than £32,000 from Norfolk County Council for the care of an elderly pensioner – even though the woman had died.

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"It was a situation that came upon her which she took advantage of"

Michael Clare, mitigating

Lorraine Bradley, 57, had cared for the woman, who had dementia, since 2007 but when she died in July 2012, Bradley, who was authorised to sign invoices on behalf of the pensioner for social care funding, continued to claim an allowance from the county council for a further 15 months until the council realised there was a discrepancy, Norwich Crown Court heard.

Rachel Cushing, prosecuting, said the council then refused to pay a further claim for £5,000 and as a result Bradley was arrested.

Bradley made a full confession and told police she had continued to claim the allowance because she was in dire financial straits.

Mrs Cushing said Bradley’s husband had died from motor neurone disease in 2006 and she had spent time nursing him through his illness, which built up debts of £40,000.

The court heard Bradley has about £80,000 equity in her home and faces losing her property as she has to pay back the £32,860 she fraudulently claimed.

Bradley, of Rectory Road, Wood Norton, near Dereham, admitted carrying out the fraud between July 8, 2012 and October 3, 2013.

However, after hearing Bradley was full of remorse and might lose her home, Judge Stephen Holt spared her an immediate jail term and imposed a four-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

He accepted she had cared well for the pensioner until her death and told her:”You were in a pretty desperate situation. You had lost your husband to a wicked and cruel disease.”

He said Bradley also faced losing her house to repay the money or remortgaging the property and said: “That is further punishment in itself.”

He ordered that she serve 15 months in jail in default of not paying back the cash and gave her six months to pay.

Michael Clare, for Bradley, said she was of previous good character and the claim was not fraudulent from the outset.

“It was a situation that came upon her which she took advantage of. “

He said she had a number of problems and suffered from depression and had the trauma of nursing her husband through his illness.

“Part of her punishment for this would be losing the family home. One way or another she has to pay it back.”

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