A SNEAKY former bank worker used the security password of an unwitting customer to steal nearly £1,000 from his account while hundreds of miles away in the Czech Republic.
Laurence Donkin was fielding an inquiry while at work as a Barclays Bank telephone advisor when he was given the password.
But rather than warn the customer he had given out vital security information during the course of the conversation, he jotted the code down in his diary and later used it to withdraw £977 while posing as the account holder over the telephone.
The 30-year-old, of Sunnirise, South Shields, made two calls to Barclays to transfer the funds into his own account while staying in the Czech Republic.
He had jetted off to the country to take on hospitality work – but when employment plans fell through he carried out the fraud.
When his crimes were uncovered he was arrested by police at Heathrow Airport as he flew back to the UK.
Donkin had left his job at the bank’s Contact Centre in Sunderland two months prior to making the fraudulent withdrawals.
South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court court heard that the fraud victim subsequently died.
Donkin pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation and narrowly avoided prison after being handed a 12-week jail term, suspended for two years.
Clare Irving, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was employed by Barclays Bank at the time. The customer provided his password and should have been informed that they had compromised their security and be advised to change password.
“He didn’t do that and took note of the password. “
The call had been made on October 26, 2012, but it was when Donkin was abroad some five months later that he carried out the two offences.
Mrs Irving added: “On March 11 last year he impersonated the customer, and asked for £82.46 to be transferred into his account.
“He did it over the telephone while in the Czech Republic.
“On March 26 he again phoned Barclays and said he was the customer and requested £895 to be transferred. This was done, and between March 11 and April 2 he made four cash withdrawals while in the Czech Republic.”
In April, the customer noticed the fraudulent withdrawals and reported it to his bank.
Barclays reimbursed him for the full amount and an inquiry was launched.
The court heard that Donkin had resigned from his bank job in January in order to pursue hospitality work abroad.
After his stint in the Czech Republic, he found more work in Greece, and was returning from there when arrested last November. Robin Ford, defending, said: “He resigned from the bank in January 2013. He didn’t resign because he had the password.
“He went to the Czech Republic in advance of going to Greece to get some work, but that fell through and he was in financial difficulties.
“It can’t be a very sophisticated fraud. Money was taken from the account and transferred to his own rather than coming up with an alternative path for the money to go to.
“He obtained the password in October 2012 and had no way of knowing that information would still be correct.
“It was a desperate act of a desperate man, not sophisticated in any way, shape or form.”
Mr Ford said his client had already saved up the money in readiness to pay the amount back to his former employers.
He added: “He had the sense to admit the offences at the police station and cause no further distress to the deceased’s family.
David Gouch, chairman of the Bench, said it had seriously considered jailing Donkin before deciding to impose a suspended sentence.
Mr Gouch said: “This offence is so serious that we believe it has passed the custody threshold. It is a breach of trust and did not involve an element of pre-emptive planning.
“You will be sentenced to six weeks custody for each offence, to run consecutively, but it will be suspended.”
As well as a 12-week prison sentence suspended for two years, Donkin was also ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work and pay compensation to Barclays Bank of £977.46, a victim surcharge of £80 and court costs of £85.
A Barclays spokesman said: “We cannot comment on specific cases. What we can say is that Barclays spends a great deal of time and money protecting the interests of our customers and ourselves against the actions of would-be fraudsters.
“We employ 55,000 people in the UK and staff fraud is rare. However, it is something that can happen in any organisation, no matter how stringent the vetting procedures are.
“We are alive to the possibility, take steps to minimise the risk, and detect it quickly if it happens.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards staff fraud. Where any employee involvement is suspected, individuals will be suspended, investigated and, where there is evidence of misconduct, dismissed.
“We always provide every assistance to the Police to enable them to prosecute suspected fraudsters whether internal or external”