Bank boss in £2.5m fraud is jailed for five years

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A former head of online security at Lloyds Banking Group has been jailed for five years after defrauding the company of £2.5m.

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 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 did work for Lloyds,.

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.

“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 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.

Antony Swift, prosecuting, told the court that Harper made several payments to friends and family to buy property.

She admitted her crimes to police, telling them she deserved the money for working 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.”

Mr Swift said she used a bank account set up in the name of software firm ISB Ltd but which was really her own, and doctored and made up invoices and emails to pay herself large sums. She knew ISB’s managing director, Simon Sutcliffe, socially and had helped the firm win work with Lloyds.

The court heard that she told Mr Sutcliffe problems over payment receipts had been resolved when he asked her to look into them. The firm now faced the prospect of losing its work with the bank.

Harper’s brothers, Simeon, Matthew and Gareth Tyrell, who received money, all expressed “shock, upset and surprise” at what she did, saying they believed she had earned the money legitimately, the court heard.

They were helping police and the bank in selling their properties and returning the money.

Mr Swift said claims by Harper of giving some of the money to charity had not been substantiated, and she had a French bank account they had not yet been able to examine.

She has cashed in her pension and shares and sold her home in Croydon, he said, paying back £709,000 so far. She has said she can repay £1.7m.

Harper was jailed for five years for fraud and four for money laundering, to be served concurrently.

The Metropolitan Police said it was actively seeking the return of more of Harper’s assets.

Lloyds Banking Group said that no customers’ money had been put at risk.