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Fraudster gets suspended sentence

Mathew Symmonds, 25, who was a customer adviser with Halifax in Middlesbrough,had admitted fraud charges totalling £1,650 when he appeared before Teesside magistrates.

The magistrates then sent him to crown court for sentencing as they considered that their power of imposing a maximum of six months’ imprisonment would not be sufficient.

However, at Teeside Crown Court on January 12, judge Peter Armstrong handed out a six-month suspended prison sentence after hearing a defence plea that Symmonds had been trying to help out his own family who were in financial difficulties and that he had shown remorse.

The original court hearing had been told that when the 86-year-old customer had first noticed the unauthorised withdrawals on her statement and had complained to the bank she had not been believed. Staff thought that she had forgotten signing the withdrawal slips.

A police probe finally revealed that Symmonds had persuaded the woman to sign a blank withdrawal slip which he then photocopied and used to make five withdrawals totalling £1,650 over a three-month period in 2009.

Prosecutor Richard Parsell told the court that the stress of the fraud had affected the elderly woman’s health as she had been worried about how she was going to be able to pay the care home fees for her husband.

In passing sentence, Judge Armstrong said the way that Symmonds had “plundered” the account of an elderly woman who had banked with
the Halifax all her life was a grave breach of trust but he gave Symmonds credit for immediately admitting the fraud.

Symmonds was also ordered to pay £1,650 compensation to Halifax in addition to £192 costs.

After the case, the Halifax confirmed that the money defrauded had been returned to the customer.

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