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Woman jailed after defrauding partner out of more than £163,000

A woman has been jailed for five years after defrauding her partner out of more than £163,000.

Michelle Farndell, 41, from Farnborough, pleaded guilty to theft, fraud by abuse of position of trust, and fraud by false representation – all of which occurred between January 2011 and May 2019.

She was sentenced to five years in prison at Winchester Crown Court yesterday, 30 November.

The court heard how Michelle and the victim, a 63-year-old man from Aldershot, started dating in 2011, before moving in together around three years later.

Michelle had told him that she was going to start working self-employed as a bookkeeper and offered to help him keep track of his finances. Michelle worked as his bookkeeper between 2013 and 2019 and as a result had unlimited and unsupervised access to the victim’s bank accounts.

It was heard how she created false and misleading spreadsheets appearing to show the victim’s accounts were all in order. This enabled her to conceal unauthorised transfers from his accounts.

Between January 2011 and May 2019 she stole £163,978 from the victim’s bank account in hundreds of transactions to her own bank account or to directly pay off other debt she had created.

It was also heard how in May 2018 Michelle dishonestly made arrangements to close a pension policy, valued at over £70,000, in the victim’s name without his knowledge. She forged his signature in order to do so, and caused the funds to be reduced to £48,493 – which she then spent.

Her fraud was discovered after a family member of the victim noticed his business had been dissolved and put into Michelle’s name in August 2016. The victim and his son then went to the bank together to find his savings account emptied and his bank overdrawn.

Michelle had also failed to file any accounts for the victim’s business, or pay tax to HMRC, in the time she was acting as his bookkeeper.

The victim sadly took his own life in February 2020.

On sentencing, Her Honour Judge Angela Morris said: “This is a case of high culpability, high breach of trust, sophisticated in its nature on many levels. The impact on the victim is such it demands an uplift in sentence.

She went on to describe Michelle Farndell’s actions as “a course of conduct which is so serious it has crossed the custody threshold by some considerable margin.”

Detective Constable Mike Dumbleton said: “Today an offender has been brought to justice and handed a substantial custodial sentence. It is with great sadness that the victim is not here to witness the result.

“Farndell’s actions undoubtedly had a devastating impact on the victim’s life, his physical health, and his mental health.

“Farndell had taken his money and he was not well enough to work. He could not cope with the debt she had created. For a period of time he expected every knock at the door to be someone chasing payments for the debt or the HMRC investigating his lack of tax paid.

“This was a complex and emotional investigation, and I would like to thank the victim’s family for their patience and strength of character throughout.

“In handing down this sentence, which reflects the nature and severity of her criminal activity, I hope this will act as a future deterrent to those individuals looking to exploit vulnerable people.”