A CARE home director has been jailed after fraudulently claiming more than £151,000 of Covid support before blaming her ex-partner.

Caroline Hunt was sentenced on Thursday after admitting eight counts of fraud, which involved deceiving Essex County Council in order to obtain thousands of pounds from the Government’s Covid-19 relief fund.

The court heard how Hunt, of St Cleres Hall Lane, St Osyth, fabricated invoices and sent them to County Hall so she could be reimbursed for PPE equipment which she never ordered and for staff she never hired.

When the fraud was investigated, Hall then lied to magistrates and submitted false expense reports under the name of her former partner and business associate, Deepak Patel, so she could leave him to take the blame.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Grants – local authorities paid Covid support grants to businesses during the pandemicGrants – local authorities paid Covid support grants to businesses during the pandemic (Image: Newsquest)

Alison Lambert, prosecuting on behalf of Essex County Council, told Chelmsford Crown Court how Hunt submitted the first invoice in May 2020 when she was director of Hunt Healthcare.

Concerns were raised when Hunt filed invoices claiming for nursing staff paid £38 per hour, and suspicions continued when it was noticed some of the invoice amounts were in dollars.

The invoices were being sent to companies called 1 Stop Healthcare and PPE London, with the latter being directed jointly by Hunt and her former partner, Deepak Patel.

Recorder William Clegg said Hunt “was at both ends of the chain”.

When Mr Patel and Hunt separated, Mr Patel’s accountant flagged unexpected withdrawals that had been made directly from PPE London to Hunt’s personal account.

Hunt had also been sending Essex County Council invoices she claimed had been issued to her by the business by 1 Stop Healthcare, but these invoices were also false.

Clacton and Frinton Gazette: Guilty – Caroline Hunt admitted eight counts of fraudGuilty – Caroline Hunt admitted eight counts of fraud (Image: Pexels)

At one stage, Hunt sent Irma Stevens, director of 1 Stop Healthcare, a text reading: “I’m coming after you next.”

In total, Hunt was paid £151,791 by Essex County Council, which she had to repay.

Colin Aylott KC, mitigating, said Hunt had shown “outrageous behaviour” but added she took full responsibility for her actions.

Hunt, 54, was sentenced to three years in prison and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £91,298.