A North Herts fraudster who conned a council out of more than £700,000 has been handed a prison sentence.

Frances Noble, 66, faked a neurological condition and told Hertfordshire County Council that she was bedbound, unable to feed herself and in need of round-the-clock care.

Between January 15, 2007 and November 26, 2018, Noble received £624,047.50 from the council, which was intended to help her live independently.

Payments dating from 2005 bring the total amount which Noble received to £702,905, but she could only be indicted for the amount after January 2007 following a change in the law.

Noble previously admitted to one count of fraud at St Albans Crown Court, and was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison on Friday, June 24.

She employed her daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Philip Borrell, aged 44 and 46, at various stages throughout the fraud. They also made a guilty plea to one count of fraud.

Noble additionally pleaded guilty to transferring criminal property in the sum of £130,649.46.

The Borrells admitted one additional joint count of acquiring criminal property amounting to £184,203.65. On top of this, Laura pleaded guilty to acquiring criminal property in the sum of £39,700, and Philip pleaded guilty to the same offence in the sum of £6,218.92.

Noble who previously lived in Damask Green Road in Weston, near Hitchin and Letchworth and now lives in Rohrwallallee, Berlin, did not attend her sentencing.

A court hearing to apply for a bench warrant for her arrest in Germany will take place at a later date.

Judge Richard Foster heard how Noble was put under surveillance for five days in 2018 when Hertfordshire County Council opened a fraud investigation.

Prosecutor Andrew Johnson told St Albans Crown Court that neighbours saw Noble standing up in the garden and walking her dog at night.

Noble received cash payments into a bank account which she controlled, and the money was supposed to be used for her care.

Mr Johnson told the court: "Noble treated the money not as a payment for the provision of vital services but as personal income with which they could all do as they pleased, and for over a decade they did do as they pleased."

He recounted how one neighbour confronted Noble about her condition when she was out in her garden.

"She took hold of her hood and pulled it across her head and said 'I am not Frances, I am her carer'," Mr Johnson said.

Another neighbour took a video of Noble walking in her garden without any aid, and investigators watched her take a Tesco delivery which she was unable to unpack without help.

Ben Newton, defence, said in mitigation: "She had genuine and serious health issues.

"She was not going on expensive foreign holidays and buying luxury items."

Judge Richard Foster said: "This is possibly the largest fraud of its type to come before the English courts.

"The cost of social care is an enormous burden on the taxpayer.

"You made Hertfordshire County Council believe you were bed-bound.

"You spun a web of lies and deceit including sending emails purporting to be from carers."

He bailed the Borrells, but told them they must prepare for prison sentences short-term.

A Hertfordshire County Council spokesperson said: "Mrs Noble, her daughter and her son-in-law undertook a sophisticated and devious fraud that shamelessly sought to deceive health and social services professionals over a sustained period of time."

They added: "The trio's offences were planned, calculated and carried out with the intention of abusing a care system designed first and foremost to meet the requirements of those in need of support.

"We will now be using the Proceeds of Crime Act and other civil recovery methods - including the forced sale of the Borrell's home - to attempt to recover every penny defrauded so that it can go towards supporting those that genuinely need our help."