Belfast Telegraph

Monday 28 July 2014

Ex-bank boss jailed for £2.5m fraud

Jessica Harper has been jailed over fraud at Lloyds Banking Group

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.

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.

Lloyds Banking Group, which includes Lloyds TSB, Halifax and Bank of Scotland, said that no customers' money had been put at risk by Harper's actions. A spokesman said: "The fraud was identified following a regular review by the bank and we notified the police and the relevant authorities and assisted fully in their investigation. Since we identified the fraud, we have changed a number of procedures to ensure a similar fraud cannot be committed again."

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