Belfast Telegraph

Held to account... the bank payment blunder chancer

By John Mulgrew

Upon hearing the news from his bank that thousands of pounds had been put into his account by mistake, a Co Fermanagh man didn't sort out the problem - he booked a lavish holiday to Mexico instead.

After receiving a call from his bank informing him they had incorrectly credited his account with over £3,000, William James decided his best bet was to spice up his life and go on an exotic trip with his mates.

The 28-year-old's apparent good fortune - which has now led to him receiving a three-month suspended sentence - began when he exchanged €4,000 in cash for £3,343 at his local Northern Bank branch in March.

The money was paid through his account, but the bank employee then mistakenly credited the same amount into the account.

District Judge Austin Kennedy said the offence was "particularly nasty" because of the repercussions for the bank worker on discovering her grievous error.

The court heard Mr James had told the bank he would sort out the issue after they contacted him the next day.

But instead of sorting the error, he withdrew £350 - the maximum cash withdrawal available for the day - before booking a £3,000 holiday for himself and three friends to the Mexican resort of Cancun.

Mr James, of Letterkeen Lodge, Pettigo Road, Kesh, also spent cash on clothes online.

The prosecutor told the Fermanagh Court that Mr James was arrested in Belfast as he tried to board a connecting flight to Manchester before catching a plane to Mexico.

He added that the accused knew the bank would catch up with him at some point, but never thought the police would become involved.

Mr James' defence barrister said he had originally thought the payment had come from the Housing Executive, and had booked the holiday, thinking the bank would reach an agreement with him to pay the cash back.

She added that "he took advantage of a situation that befell him rather than something orchestrated" and told the court her client had no previous convictions for offences of dishonesty.

In summing up the case, revealed by the Impartial Reporter, Judge Kennedy told Mr James he had "no doubt" he had been aware of what was going on.

His sentence was suspended for three years.

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