A former Lloyds bank worker from south Croydon has been jailed for five years for committing the fraud she was employed to prevent.
Jessica Harper, 50, submitted 93 false invoices which diverted £2.5 million into her personal account over a four-year period, Southwark Crown Court was told.
She had already plead guilty to fraud by abuse of position and transferring criminal property through friends and family on August 7.
Speaking for the prosecution, counsel Antony Swift laid out how she used her knowledge of Lloyds’ payment systems to defrauded it of £2,463,750.88 – but her defence claimed she acted out of stress, overwork and “a sense of obligation to helping others”.
The court heard how she exploited her friendly relationship with ISB Limited, a company providing computer services to Lloyds, to conceal false invoices she submitted in its name.
As senior manager for third party suppliers, Harper doctored an email from an ISB employee so she could authorise an extra payment route which actually led to her own account.
When ISB realised it was getting payment notifications for an account it had never heard of, it contacted the bank – but the query ended up in the hands of Harper herself.
In what Swift called “a cynical utilisation of her personal friendship”, she met ISB’s managing director, Simon Sutcliffe, to reassure him, and ISB subsequently ignored the notifications.
There is no suggestion the company was aware of her behaviour.
Harper made a full confession when arrested by City of London Police in December 2011, telling them she was sick of working from 5am until 8pm and felt she “deserved it.”
Defence counsel Carol Hawley said that Harper had described her work at the time as “all-consuming”, that she felt “isolated”, and that “all balance in her life had stopped.”
The court heard how temporary duties as interim head of security for digital banking soon became an extra job, leaving Harper workng 60-hour weeks for a period of two years before the start of her scam.
Hawley also claimed that Harper’s voluntary work for local groups such as the Rotary Club, Croydon Council, Redgate School and Croydon Voluntary Action, and the fact that she gave most of her proceeds to friends and family, demonstrated an “absence of self-interest.”
Hawley said: “This was not the case of a greedy woman indulging herself in an expensive lifestyle.”
Her brothers, Simon, Matthew and Gareth Tyrell, reportedly did not know that the money she gave them was fraudulent, and simply believed her to be better paid than she was.
Harper has cashed in her pension and sold her house in Croydon, as well as her car and shares, to repay the money, the court heard.
Summing up her decision after retiring for 30 minutes, Judge Deborah Taylor said Harper had been “expected to exercise the highest probity” but had abused the trust placed in her.
She rejected the claim that Harper had not benefited personally, pointing to her use of the funds to landscape her garden.
Taylor said: “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 was sentenced to five years in prison, of which she would serve half before being released subject to special conditions.
Compensation proceedings will be delayed while courts investigate property in France which the prosecution claims have not been properly disclosed.