Belfast Telegraph

Santander employee sentenced to 18 months for stealing £102k

By Ashleigh McDonald

A former Santander member of staff who defrauded his employers of more than £102,000 - none of which has ever been recovered - is starting an 18-month sentence.

Eamon Francis Coyle (31) from North Hill Street, Belfast, will spend nine months in custody with the remaining nine months on supervised licence upon his release, for the "leading role" he played in the scam.

Coyle, who worked in a Santander call centre in Belfast, admitted a count of fraud by abuse of position, whereby he falsely transferred £102,772.73 from Santander into several bank accounts over a period from January 2011 to February 2012.

He also admitted two further counts of entering into an agreement to acquire criminal property. One count relates to the transfer of £50,167.40 into the bank account of co-accused John James O'Halloran, while the second count relates to the transfer of £21,474.76 into the account of a man not before the court.

John James O'Halloran (40) from Short Street, Belfast, pleaded guilty to one charge of entering an arrangement with Coyle to acquire criminal property, namely money transferred into a Santander account on dates between July 2011 and December 2011.

For this offence, the father-of-four received a seven-month prison sentence at Belfast Crown Court.

A Crown prosecutor told the court that on April 12, 2012 a special investigation unit within Santander launched a probe into an ex-employee who used to work at the May Meadows call centre in Belfast. The member of staff (Coyle) had worked at the call centre from November 2004 until his resignation in March 2012.

The court heard that one of Coyle's roles within the call centre was exacting transfers from Santander's holding account which was used to store funds that had not made it from the sender to the recipient. This could be due to a number of reasons, such as an incorrect recipient address, and Santander - like other banks - used the holding account to store funds until the transfer is exacted correctly.

Coyle used this system to fund transfers of just over £102,000 via 159 transactions, over a period of just under a year. To do this, Coyle used his own unique staff identification number.

This money was placed into two accounts held by Coyle, as well as accounts of co-accused O'Halloran and a second man not before the court. The transferred money would then be withdrawn from various ATMs.

The prosecutor told Judge Patricia Smyth that O'Halloran was less culpable than Coyle due to Coyle's position within the bank. He added Coyle involved O'Halloran in the criminality and that O'Halloran "was being paid a relatively modest sum" of £100 a week as a result of that involvement.

In total, O'Halloran is thought to have made around £2,000 as a result of the scam, while the £102,772.73 obtained by Coyle has never been recovered.

The court also heard that since his arrest, Coyle has made the case that two people he will not name intimidated and put pressure on him, which induced him to undertake the offending and subsequently involve O'Halloran and the other man not before the court. However this claim, said the prosecutor, has not been backed up by any evidence.

A barrister representing Coyle said that when her client resigned, it was clear to him that his offending "was bound to come to light" as he had used his own unique staff identification.

Passing sentence, Judge Smyth noted the "significant loss" to Santander, as a result of the offending.

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