In-red student in cheque scam spared jail

A DEBT-LADEN student who became involved in a £25,000 cheque scam after a friend told her it was a way to make "easy money" was spared jail yesterday.

Elsa Lopes, 22, was given a ten-month prison sentence suspended for two years at the Old Bailey after admitting two counts of fraud.

The court heard that Lopes, of Victoria Docks, east London, was a student at the University of Hertfordshire. She was also working three days a week as a customer service officer at the Ilford branch of NatWest bank.

Lopes used her position to access security details and view the signatures of account holders.

She was caught after a cheque for 8,500 was cashed, using the information, at a branch of the bank in Camden, north London.

Further investigation found fraudulent withdrawals of 7,500 and 9,000 from another account.

Lopes was arrested in October and admitted what she had done, prosecutor Paul Douglass told the court.

"She said while at university a friend of hers had told her how she could make some easy money and put her in touch with someone to pass on bank details."

Lopes said she had met a man and given him details of the accounts, and in return she received 400, Mr Douglass said.

The man was said to have been in touch with a corrupt postman through whom he was able to obtain chequebooks.

Avirup Chaudhuri, defending, said Lopes had since taken steps to "resolve her indebted situation" but still owed money for student loans. The money she received went on trying to ease her debts.