Woman was sentenced in Toowoomba District Court.
Woman was sentenced in Toowoomba District Court. Bev Lacey

Former Heritage Bank employee jailed for fraud

A FORMER Heritage Bank employee who systematically stole money from the Toowoomba-based business over a 10 year period has been jailed for seven years.

Kingsthorpe woman Amanda Louise James (nee Young) had started misappropriating bank funds just two months after obtaining employment with the business as a 21-year-old in May 2005.

Using her knowledge as a bank services officer, she had set up six accounts in the names of various of her family into which she had transferred funds from a range of the bank's own general ledger accounts, Toowoomba District Court heard.

Crown prosecutor Shontelle Petrie said in the 10 years and seven months offending period, James had made 1660 transactions totalling more than $656,000.

The smallest transaction had been just $10, the largest $2650.

Ms Petrie said James had twice been on maternity leave during which time the offending stopped but each time she returned to work her offending had increased in amount and regularity.

The first period of offending prior to her first maternity leave amounted to $111,908 being transferred to her accounts at an average of $2700 a month over the 40 month period, while she had transferred $544,381 in the second period of seven years which averaged about $6400 a month, the court heard.

Ms Petrie said James had been highly regarded and had been promoted a number of times over the years.

"She was a trusted employee," she said.

Ms Petrie said the Crown could not say where the money had gone but it appeared to have been spent on various household items and at least one trip to America in 2007.

At the time both James and her husband had been working and it was the Crown case that this was a matter of "greed not need", Ms Petrie submitted.

The bulk of the misappropriated funds had been reimbursed to the bank by its insurer which had since started proceedings against the accused.

The 33-year-old mother of three, who sobbed at times during her sentence hearing, pleaded guilty two counts of fraud as an employee.

Her barrister Robbie Davies told the court his client had no criminal history at all and was remorseful and "hugely embarrassed" by her conduct.

She had been surprised by the amount of money involved and had made admissions and resigned "on the spot" when the discrepancies eventually came to the attention of the bank.

Referring to a victim impact statement from bank management, Judge Dennis Lynch QC noted James's offending had had a significant impact on the bank's customers and staff and an adverse effect on staff morale.

The subsequent publicity could also have an adverse affect on the bank's reputation, he said.

Judge Lynch ordered James be eligible to apply for release from prison on parole as of July 10, 2019, after having served 28 months, one-third of seven year head sentence.