Cornwall couple stole £1.1m from hospital and spent it on Turkish villa
A couple who splashed out on a Turkish villa and home improvements at their country pile using £1.1m stolen from hospital bosses have been jailed for a total of ten years.
Andrew Baker, 65, and his wife, Anne, 61, installed cascading waterfalls and fountains in the grounds of their sprawling 2.5 acre Grade II listed estate in Cornwall.
Manderley, built in the 17th Century near Launceston, is a popular venue for couples to hold lavish weddings, boasting its own golf course, exotic bird aviary and koi carp lake.
The Bakers also invested almost £100,000 in a luxury villa in Bodrum, Turkey, and owned two Jaguars and an Aston Martin.
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Belfast-born Mrs Baker swiped the cash during a ‘breathtaking’ 13-year con while she worked as a radiology department manager at the Princess Grace Hospital in Marylebone, central London.
Using her maiden name, Fitzpatrick, she pocketed £1,142,101.02 by submitting a string of bogus invoices to a fictional radiologist, Dr Baker, for consultancy services.
The ‘well-oiled’ fraud – which allowed Mrs Baker to take home four times her monthly salary – took place between 1998 and 2012, when the hospital was run by HCA International.
Mr Baker, who met his current wife in 1971 after divorcing a former partner, knew ‘full well’ what his wife was up to and was a key beneficiary of the loot, Southwark Crown Court heard.
He also transferred £85,000 into two Turkish bank accounts and stashed £25,000 in a gun cupboard at his home.
Jailing Mr Baker for six years and his wife for four years, the judge, Mr Recorder David Aaronberg QC said: ‘It beggars belief to suggest that (Mr Baker) thought this was all legitimate income. He tried to fool the jury and they didn’t fall for it.
‘It was very easy for Mrs Baker, in a position of trust, to create a fictional doctor, to submit invoices in his name. She was in a gross breach of trust over more than 13 years.
‘Previous good character only goes so far when it comes to offending behaviour of this kind.’
The judge told Mr Baker: ‘I take the view that you are equally culpable, you chose to contest this matter and you deceived the jury and the court with your explanations which were patently untrue.’
Mrs Baker, wearing glasses, an orange tartan-style jacket and an orange and white patterned shirt, and her husband, sporting a moustache, burgundy polo shirt and brown jacket, showed no emotion as sentence was passed.
Mr Baker claimed he had ‘no idea whatsoever’ about his wife’s wrongdoing, insisting he had obtained the cash legitimately from his late father and the sale of a flat in Putney, southwest London.
He also said his wife had received a bonus of £132,000 when she retired from the hospital in 2008.
But a jury of seven women and five men convicted Mr Baker of two counts of money laundering following a week-long trial.
Anne Baker admitted false accounting and money laundering prior to her husband’s case.
She authorised forged invoices around once a month, with annual amounts varying between £80,000 and £179,000.
The couple, who run A&A Venues, raked in a fortune hosting events at the newly-transformed Manderley, which features a 30ft pond with a ‘large cascading waterfall‘, a pitch and putt golf course, an outdoor swimming pool, exotic bird aviary and extensive gardens.
The Bodrum villa was purchased in September 2007 before £85,000 was transferred to Guaranteed Bank accounts which had Andrew Baker’s name ‘all over them’.
A further £88,882 was spent on building work at Manderley, with even more cash ploughed into landscaping projects.
Prosecutor Hugh Forgan told jurors that their genuine earnings were ‘dwarfed’ by their ill-gotten gains.
’mr Baker turned the house in Cornwall into something rather splendid,’ said Mr Forgan.
‘The defendant knew he could afford it because he knew full well what his wife was up to.’
Mrs Baker is now bankrupt and continues to insist her husband was oblivious to her deception.
Justin Rivett, defending Mrs Baker, claimed she had turned to crime because she found it ‘very difficult to make ends meet’.
’she accepts full responsibility for her actions,’ he added.
‘Initially she hadn’t set out to defraud her employers over a long period of time but events just simply carried on.
‘The fraud was not of a sophisticated nature.
’she spent a lot of money and most of it did go on Manderley but it was a large property and expensive to maintain.
‘They did not go on a large number of expensive foreign holidays.’
Priya Malhotra, defending Mr Baker, a qualified civil engineer who has worke don contracts for the US and British military, said he was not the main player in the fraud.
‘It is squarely on the shoulders of his wife.’
Andrew Baker, of Manderley, South Petherwin, Launceston, denied two counts of money laundering.
Anne Baker, of the same address, admitted two charges of money laundering and false accounting.
A statement released by HCA Hospitals and the Princess Grace Hospital said: ‘HCA welcomes the jury’s verdict that Mr Baker is guilty of money laundering. Mr and Mrs Baker conducted systematic and ongoing criminal acts and both were complicit in the planning and cover-up of their actions.
‘HCA operates with rigorous financial procedures but criminals will always seek ways of circumventing and misleading. Like any company, we will continue to review and improve systems to ensure similar cases cannot happen again.
‘We would like to thank the Met Police for its diligence and professionalism in bringing Mr and Mrs Baker to justice.’
Detective Constable Julie Jode, of Westminster CID, said: ‘I am pleased that Andrew Baker has been found guilty of money laundering. The overwhelming evidence against his wife, Anne Baker, led her to plead guilty.
’she abused her position of authority by fraudulently taking money that did not belong to her and Andrew Baker was aware of this and directly benefited from her illegal actions. They both enjoyed a decadent lifestyle through criminal gains at the expense of HCA Hospitals.’