A HUSBAND and wife over claimed the hours they worked in supporting members of the community in a fraud worth around £40,000, a jury concluded.

Gary Blake, aged 58, was found guilty of two counts of fraud following a trial at Salisbury Crown Court.

Marielyn Blake, aged 72, was found not fit to stand trial. After a trial of the facts in her case, the jury made findings of fact in relation to two counts of fraud, two counts of theft and possession of criminal property, namely £352,000 in cash.

Both defendants, of Asbury Avenue, Poole, were sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court on January 21.

Prosecuting, Mark Ruffell said the fraud took place between 2014 and 2018 against two companies – Payroll Perfection and Enham Trust – who offer direct payment facilities for residents.

While the services were arranged and agreed by the residents, the payments were funded by Bournemouth Borough Council, so the fraud was in effect against the council tax payer, Mr Ruffell said.

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Gary Blake and Marielyn Blake had been personal representatives – effectively support workers – for a number of people, assisting with daily living tasks like shopping and cleaning.

The findings of fact over the two thefts relating to Marielyn Blake concerned her persuading one resident to gift her a total sum of £51,093 and persuading another to withdraw cash and give the majority of it to her, some £22,385, when there was no reason to do so.

The court heard both defendants had no previous convictions and that they had over claimed for work that was "most definitely done".

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Sonal Dashani, representing Gary Blake, said: "It is clear that Mr and Mrs Blake made these people their community, made them their lives."

She added that the people the Blakes supported were happy and they were cared for.

The court heard Gary Blake was the principal carer for his wife.

However, the Recorder of Salisbury Judge Andrew Barnett jailed Gary Blake for two years and nine months after thinking "long and hard about what is the right and just solution".

The judge issued Marielyn Blake with a two-year supervision order.

Following the sentencing hearing, Detective Inspector Mark Jenkins said: “This was an extensive and extremely detailed investigation, which allowed us to establish the full extent of Gary Blake’s behaviour and present it to the jury during the trial.

“This type of manipulative offending is completely unacceptable and I would like to praise the victims and witnesses for their support during what must have been a difficult and distressing time for them as they trusted in the defendants.

“I would like to take this opportunity to remind anyone who has concerns about the financial affairs of a member of their family being provided support or care, to please be inquisitive and report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities.”

A BCP Council spokesperson said systems and processes had been "violated".

“The fraudulent activity in July 2017 was highlighted by one of our officers in the direct payment team and thanks to swift collaboration with Dorset Police, an investigation was launched, has been dealt with in court and an appropriate sentence been given," the spokesperson said.

“We’ve continued to support the victims involved and as a consequence of this case, we have reviewed our monitoring procedures to protect those vulnerable adults that we continue to work with.”