Bank teller stole thousands from vulnerable customers

A BILOELA bank teller who "preyed on vulnerable" customers and stole more than $158,000 from elderly peoples' accounts was sentenced to almost five years imprisonment in Rockhampton District Court this afternoon.

Patricia Dawn Johnson pleaded guilty to one count of fraud after ANZ Bank investigators caught her out in May 2014 following 13 months of offending.

The court heard the 48-year-old made 26 fraudulent transactions ranging between $1500 and $60,000 from five accounts to the value of $227, 300 between April 2013 and May 2014.

Crown prosecutor Ryder Reid told the court Johnson returned $69,000 making the total personal gain $158,300.

He said some of the customers she targeted were disabled, widowed and elderly and she redirected statements as to avoid detection.

Other accounts were used to deposit customers' pensions.

"An aggravating feature was many of the customers were vulnerable," he said.

"There was an element of sophistication and calculation.

"She preyed on vulnerable customers who were unlikely to notice."

ANZ Bank investigators escorted Johnson from the Biloela branch in May 2014, the same morning she withdrew $20,000 from a customer's account, a sum of cash she left the bank with that day.

The court heard the offending came to light when a 74-year-old customer enquired with the bank about his statements and was told his account balance was only $443 when he expected it to be $107,000.

Defence solicitor Marie Willey said her client had been employed in the banking industry for 25 years.

"She saw an opportunity however she didn't live a lavish lifestyle as a result of the offending," she said.

"It was used for day-to-day matters and general living expenses, there were no holidays or boats or lavish expenditure on her behalf."

Judge Michael Burnett said he found it surprising the Biloela community did not suspect the offending.

"It seems a lot of money for someone living in a small country town for someone not showing any manifestation," he said.

"Biloela is not the most exciting place in the world, to have $20,000 to splash around would get yourself some attention.

"You have nothing to show for the dissipation of the funds."

He said Johnson initially denied the offending and pleaded not guilty on the first occasion and the offending was "protracted and persistent".

"But for coming to the bank's attention the offending would have continued," he said.

"There is not the same degree of evident remorse (which would have come with an early guilty plea).

"It does offend and strike at the very heart of the bank system as a depository of citizens' funds."

Johnson was sentenced to four years and nine months imprisonment suspended after serving 18 months with an operational period of five years.

The victims' money has since been returned.

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