December 5 2013 Latest news:
Friday, September 21, 2012
A former head of online security at Lloyds Banking Group has been jailed for five years after defrauding the company of almost £2.5 million.
Jessica Harper, 50, whose £60,000-a-year role included fighting fraud, submitted 93 false and doctored invoices to pay herself £2,463,750, which she then gave to friends and her three brothers to allow them to buy property.
The fraud took place during the financial crisis when Lloyds received substantial amounts of taxpayers’ money.
She stole the money over four years by creating a dummy bank account in the name of an IT firm which carried out work for Lloyds, even throwing it off the scent when directors questioned paperwork they received.
Southwark Crown Court heard that Harper told police she deserved the money for showing “loyalty” to the firm when she could earn four times as much elsewhere, but denied personally benefiting from the fraud.
She said she worked 60 hours a week for two years in two jobs, first as a senior manager for third-party suppliers and then additionally as interim head of fraud and security.
Judge Deborah Taylor told her: “You were a senior employee in the bank in a position with a high degree of trust at a time when Lloyds was substantially supported by a lot of taxpayers’ money following difficulties sustained by the bank in the financial crisis.
“You disregarded your duties out of a sense of entitlement to take other people’s money for your own benefit and that of your family.”
Harper, of Crest Road, Croydon, south London, had previously pleaded guilty to a single charge of fraud by abuse of position and a second charge of money laundering, both between December 28 2007 and December 21 last year.
She admitted her crimes to police, telling them she deserved the money for working such long hours, getting up at 5.30am and getting home at around 8pm for a salary of between £60,000 and £70,000.
“I saw the opportunity and thought ‘given the hours I work I deserve it’,” she told officers.
“If I went to work for another company I would probably be earning four times as much.”
Harper was jailed for five years for fraud and four for money laundering, to be served concurrently. She will serve half before being released on licence.
Detective Chief Inspector Robin Cross, from the Fraud Squad, said: “This case is an example of a serious abuse of position by a senior bank employee who should have been protecting the bank and its customers against fraud.”
“Jessica Harper has destroyed her own reputation and the sentence reflects the seriousness of the offence.”