Swindling Preston carer told to pay back half a million

A thieving carer who charged an OAP rent to live in a bungalow she bought with money she stole from him must pay back almost half a million pounds, a judge ruled.

Tuesday, 25th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:52 pm
Toni Chippendale

Toni Chippendale, 56, and formerly of Whitby Avenue, Ingol, Preston, is currently serving a six-year jail term in HMP Styal after admitting theft and fraud from Preston pensioner Geoffrey Cooke.

She siphoned off nearly £100,000, including a £25,000 overpayment in care fees, from the 86-year-old, who passed away before justice was served.

She gained a portfolio of four properties and a vehicle from her ill gotten gains - all of which will now have to be sold to pay her confiscation and compensation orders.

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Approaching her 60s, the mum’s sudden accumulation of four properties would have seen her well into her own retirement.

But her increasing greed was to become her downfall as she clawed more and more from Mr Cooke, triggering his family’s concerns.

Chippendale came into their lives when widower Geoffrey needed help to care for his son John, who had Downs Syndrome and lived with him. She had worked for the care agency that assisted them, but later decided to work for herself, and Geoffrey kept her on.

She was paid to give John personal care and take him out on a weekend, and after a while she would also accompany them on holiday.

But alarm bells started ringing when Geoffrey paid £5,000 to buy her car.

She had also “sold him” a three piece suite and various other items, and their holidays were getting increasingly extravagant.

Chippendale then persuaded the pensioner to sell the home he shared with his disabled son and move into a bungalow she bought in Ingol. She charged him an upfront rent payment of £50,000 - as well as a secret £650 a month direct debit into a relative’s bank account. The resulting complex investigation by police devastated the pensioner and the former RAF man died before justice was done, virtually penniless and homeless.

But his surviving family were to face a series of further devastating blows.

Chippendale was also accused of stealing from his son John, 57, who suffered Downs syndrome, but the charge was ordered to lie on file by the judge.

John died from a heart attack last March before Chippendale entered her guilty pleas, at a time when Geoffrey’s granddaughter had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

And in a further tragedy Geoffrey’s other son Peter, who had just become a grandad, died unexpectedly a few days before Chippendale’s court hearing to seize her assets.

The distraught family were in fact holding his funeral last week when they received the news Judge Graham Knowles had ordered her to pay back £362,995 and £99,00 compensation to the family.

Daughter Cath Bermingham, 55, from Broadgate, Preston, described it as a “bittersweet” day.

She told the Post: “This has been a 10 year journey of heartache and trauma for us. The compensation seems like lot of money but it is less than half of what we suspect she stole.

“The other £362,000 was money she couldn’t claim she had legally earned or been entitled to so it will go back to the community through the POCA scheme.

“We would have liked to have seen her face in court when he made his decision.

“We have seen the property she made my dad rent is already up for sale which is good - nobody should profit from that property. It’s gone on so long I can’t bring myself to believe it until the money is in the bank. But we are relieved it is all over.

“It has been hard because Peter had a new grandchild, and was only supposed to be going in for a stent in his heart to be repaired. It has been awful.

“It was a bittersweet occasion at the funeral when we found out what had happened at court, but we like to think Peter was watching what was going on.”

The order means Chippendale has three months to stump up the cash or will face 42 months in prison on top of her existing six-year jail term.