A DISGRACED former NHS officer who forged her ex-prison officer lover's signature in a £62,000 identity and mortgage scam has been jailed for two years.
Michelle Whitham, 41, re-mortgaged the Rossendale home she shared with Patricia Bailey and used her passport and driving licence to dupe companies into lending her cash in a string of deceptions, Burnley Crown Court heard.
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She managed to get a loan of £39,500 and secured another of £20,500 on the property in Shawforth, near Bacup, and a credit card online.
She further obtained a £1,750 loan, secured on Miss Bailey's car.
Whitham, who had re-registered the Peugeot vehicle by changing the details in the log book, cancelled Miss Bailey's car insurance and re-insured the vehicle in her own name.
The con only came to light when Miss Bailey was stopped by police for driving uninsured in the car she thought was hers, but which officers told her apparently wasn’t.
Miss Bailey, 58, is now facing the loss of her terrace home because of her relationship with the ex-con, who she met while working as a prison officer.
To keep her scam secret, Whitham arranged for their post to be kept at the depot where she would then collect it.
Miss Bailey found out about the re-mortgage not long after, but didn't discover until later her name was on the application. Miss Bailey, who hadn't gone to the police because she valued the relationship and was put in a difficult position, was said to have discovered other frauds when the relationship ended and she then made a complaint.
Whitham, of Smithy Bridge Road, Littleborough, admitted four charges of fraud by false representation. She was jailed for two years for the offences, which raised £61,950.
The court heard the former lovers had met after Whitham was jailed for 21 months in 2001 for defrauding her NHS bosses by paying £50,000 of public money into her account while working at Birch Hill Hospital, Rochdale.
She has recently been working as a chef at The Moorcock Inn in Littleborough.
After Whitham was released, in February 2002, Miss Bailey gave up her job to 'develop the relationship' with the defendant. Whitham went to live with Miss Bailey in the complainant's house in Moss Side Street, which she then owned in her sole name. Miss Bailey said the relationship started after she left her job.
During the relationship, the defendant arranged for the post to be collected by her. Prosecutor Laura Findley said: "This was presumably so she could commit these offences and keep it a secret from her then partner."
In 2009, a half share of Miss Bailey's home was given to the defendant, the court heard.
Between April 1 and 14 that year, Whitham applied to re-mortgage the property in the sum of £39,500 and forged Miss Bailey's signature.
Miss Findley said between October 1 and November 1, 2012, the defendant took out a further loan on the property, for £20,500, again forging Miss Bailey's signature.
The prosecutor said between October 21 and November 6, 2012, the defendant got a credit card from Vanquis Bank in Miss Bailey's name.
And between August 1 and 31, 2012, the defendant claimed to Hermes Property Services Ltd she was the owner of Miss Bailey's Peugeot car, to secure a loan.
About a year later, Miss Bailey got a letter from Norton Finance, saying she had defaulted on the loan secured against her home.
In August 2013, Miss Bailey got a letter from the bank, telling her she had a £447.80 balance outstanding. She challenged the defendant, but Whitham lied, claiming the application had been in her own name.
The court heard between £10,000 and £15,000 had now been paid back.
Miss Findley said: "The defendant has, or will, relinquish her share of the equity in the property, which I understand, she says is around £20,000. The equity is around £40,000."
Whitham's barrister, Robert Elias told the court :"My understanding is that Miss Bailey went to the police as a woman scorned, when my client moved on to another relationship."
He told the hearing Miss Bailey had forgiven the defendant after the re-mortgage. Whitham was paying the mortgage back for four years.
Mr Elias said Miss Bailey, who described herself as retired, had been content to give up work and live off the defendant's earnings.
He said she knew Whitham's track record and had 'put her head in the sand.' He added: "She is financially disadvantaged at the end of her relationship with my client."
The barrister said Whitham and Miss Bailey had both wanted a civil ceremony, but Miss Bailey had thought she might lose her prison pension for having a relationship with a prisoner.
Mr Elias, who urged the judge to impose a suspended jail term, said: "It seems, happily, that most of the loss will be recouped."
Recorder Raymond Herman said the frauds were carried out over a sustained period of time, there was some element of significant planning, such as diverting the post and the defendant's conduct had been 'highly deceptive'.
Passing sentence, the judge said the total loss to the financial institutions was £61,950. He told Whitham: "In this case, there are really two victims - the financial institutions and Miss Bailey, who was exploited by you and has had to suffer the psychological and financial consequences of your actions. She has found it distressing. She has had to put her house on the market and has had to face dealing with large debts which she has accrued."