A woman whose job was to defend Lloyds Banking Group from online fraud has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of defrauding the company out of nearly £2.5 million ($4 million) in a false invoice scam.
Jessica Harper, 50, was accused at Southwark Crown Court of submitting 93 false invoices for a total £2,463,750 between December 2007 and December 2011, a period in which UK tax-payers had provided huge financial support to her employers, including Lloyds Bank and Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS).
The fraud was a variation on the common insider invoice fraud conspiracy in which an employee with enough authority simply pays a fictitious firm for non-existent services. In Harper’s case, the firm, ISB Ltd, was real enough but the invoices for between £50,000 and £60,000 for every month of the con were invented.
The Court was told that Harper had given some of the money to friends and her brothers with around £700,000 having already been repaid by selling Harper’s home. It was likely that another £1 million would be recovered after properties bought with the proceeds were sold.
Harper struggled to explain her behaviour but had, the judge said, told police that she felt entitled to the money in return for long hours worked and to supplement her £60,000 salary.
"If I went to work for another company I would probably be earning four times as much," she was reported to have told investigators.
“You were a senior employee in a bank, in a position with a high degree of trust at a time when Lloyds was substantially supported by the public - that is tax-payers’ money - following the financial difficulties sustained by the bank in the financial crisis,” said Judge Deborah Taylor.
“You disregarded your duties out of a sense of entitlement to take other people’s money for your own benefit and the benefit of your family.”
The fraud will also be hugely embarrassing to Lloyds Banking Group, which in its pre-merger incarnation as Lloyds TSB once made great play of its investment in robust online security.
Harper was sentenced to five years for fraud and four years for money laundering, to be served concurrently.