Northern Ireland

Bank worker stole from customers in care

A former bank worker stole £104,000 from the dormant bank accounts of deceased customers and those in full-time care, a court has heard.

Linda Allison, 51, from Ormonde Crescent in Belfast, was given an 18-month prison sentence, suspended for three years, for the thefts.

She made full admissions during police interviews and outlined exactly how she carried out the fraud.

She relinquished her pension to compensate her victims.

The judge said he was also taking into account Allison's mental history as well as the impact a period of imprisonment would have on her young son.

Allison committed the offences over a period spanning from November 2007 to November 2009.

Allison, who started working at Northern Bank after leaving school in 1981, carried out the offences while working in the Connswater branch in Belfast.

Suspicions

She admitted 68 separate counts of fraud by abuse of position. One of the charges related to the theft of £16,323.71 which was stolen from a client's account around Christmas 2007.

Belfast Crown Court heard the grandmother spent the stolen money on clothes and on her family.

The prosecution said Allison's offending came to light when an internal audit was carried out at another Belfast branch of the bank. She said that within each bank there are accounts deemed dormant, meaning they have not been used for a number of years.

For accounts to become active, lodgements have to be made into the account, and it was this change in status on two dormant accounts that roused suspicions and prompted the internal audit.

She told the court that each member of staff is given a unique staff number and short name, and the results of the internal audit revealed that lodgements had been made into two dormant accounts by a member of staff at the Connswater branch.

Revealing the dormant accounts belonged to customers who were either deceased, in poor health and needing full-time care or who had simply forgotten about their existence, the prosecutor said the audit revealed that after lodgements were made into the two accounts, money totalling £4,223 was withdrawn from them.

'Ashamed'

Further investigations revealed that the two accounts had been accessed by Allison, using her unique staff name and number. When this information came to light on 13 November, 2009, Allison was questioned by bank officials. She denied accessing any funds from the two accounts but was immediately suspended.

When a more widespread internal audit was carried out, it emerged that she had used the same method of making a small lodgement in a dormant account before withdrawing funds from it on 82 accounts across 26 Northern Bank branches in Northern Ireland. The bank then notified the PSNI, who launched an investigation.

Defence counsel said that her client had a history of mental health issues and had "frittered away" the money she took, is now in debt and has separated from her partner as a result of appearing in court on the fraud charges.

She also said Allison had an unblemished criminal record, adding the former bank worker was "extremely ashamed of what she did".

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