Five years for supplementing wages by fraud

26 September 2013

Jessica Harper aged 50, whilst working as head of fraud and security had submitted numerous false invoices from 2007 to 2011 leading to payments being made to herself totalling £2.4 million.  

Ms Harper admitted fraud by abuse of position and transferring criminal property (money laundering). 

The prosecution told the court that Ms Harper had submitted 93 false and amended invoices to give rise to payments to herself totalling £2,463,750.  She then gave large sums to friends and in particular her three brothers who invested the money in property.  It is understood that her brothers had no knowledge of her fraudulent activities and believed that their sister had a high earning job in the City from which she was able to share her good fortune with her family.

Ms Harper had been earning £60,000 per year in her role working for the bank.  When interviewed by the police she told the interviewing officers that in her view 'she deserved the money' because she was working very long hours getting up at 5.30am and returning home at 8.00pm.  She said in her interview "I saw the opportunity and thought 'given the hours I work I deserve it'.  If I went to work for another company I would probably be earning four times as much."

Judge Deborah Taylor, in sentencing her, said "You were a senior employee in the bank in a position with a high degree of trust at a time when Lloyds was substantially supported by a lot of taxpayer's money following difficulties sustained by the bank in the financial crisis.  You disregarded your duties out of a sense of entitlement to take other people's money for your own benefit and that of your family." 

Although Harper denies personally benefitting from the fraud the Judge made it clear that in her view she had. 

Representing Ms Harper, Carol Hawley said in mitigation that Ms Harper had been working under a huge amount of pressure for a long period of time. She told the court of her long history of charity fundraising and handed in character references on her behalf.  She added "She describes that period of her life when work became all-consuming.  She still today struggles to explain the reason behind her behaviour."

The Crown are now seeking repayment of the funds taken by way of fraud.  Ms Harper has sold her home and other assets and has so far repaid the sum of £709,000.  It is understood that her brothers are in the process of selling the homes they purchased with the fraudulent funds and on an optimistic valuation this may enable Ms Harper to repay a total of approximately £1.7 million. 

The prosecutor, Anthony Swift, stated that the prosecution was also still investigating whether or not Ms Harper has hidden assets in France including a holiday home and a bank account.  It is the prosecution's belief that she purchased a property for £25,000, however this is something that is denied by Ms Harper.

Despite the fact that it is anticipated that Ms Harper will fall short of being able to raise the total sums to repay the monies taken from her previous employer, if the court is satisfied that her assets do not extend further than those she is able to sell then the order made by the court will only require her to repay that sum.  The court's order will be in the sum of her 'realisable assets' but the Crown do always have the ability in the future to revisit the order and seek an amendment to increase the monies to be paid if it is found that she has other assets. 

This is not legal advice; it is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.