Thieving bank manager jailed

A CROOKED Suffolk bank manager has been jailed after plundering �300,000 from accounts belonging to relatives, friends and elderly customers.

Jason Benham was imprisoned for four years at Ipswich Crown Court which heard he embezzled from clients, one of whom was an 84-year-old woman with Alzheimers. Another could not read or write.

Benham, 37, had admitted five fraud charges and obtaining a money transfer by deception between June 1, 2005 and January 31, 2009, while employed by Lloyds TSB. The father-of-three also asked for 34 other offences to be taken into consideration.

Among Benham’s victims were his aunt, Megan Reeve, from whose account he siphoned �43,000 and his brother-in-law Gary Rogers, who lost �16,000.

There were 48 customers affected in all, the court head. One couple who invited him to their wedding reception even had to consider bankruptcy.

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The husband, Benham’s friend for 13 years, said in a victim impact statement: “I can’t believe the financial mess he’s left us in. I even gave him blank cheques to pay in for us.”

Another couple, who were close friends of Benham - the manager of Lloyds TSB Mildenhall until he was suspended on January 8 last year - suffered relationship problems as a result of their loss.

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Others conned were an 89-year-old man and a 72-year-old, who lost �38,000. The latter was unable to read or write and trusted Benham implicitly.

A cleaner at Lloyds TSB in Lakenheath - where Benham had previously worked - lost �15,000. Another woman had �19,000 taken and initially blamed her great-nephew as some of the money was transferred into his account.

The court heard Benham even continued to contact customers after he resigned from Lloyds TSB on January 19 last year.

Part of an impact statement by Tina-Anne Bell, another victim, read: “Now, I can’t trust anyone with my money. It will now take me a long time to get back to the financial situation I was in before Jason Benham. I naturally assumed I could trust him, but I was wrong.

“I want to see him go down for a long time.”

Sentencing Benham, of Feltwell, near Thetford, Judge John Devaux told him: “Over a number of years you have groomed a number of customers to use you as their sole point of contact with the bank to the extent that they hardly ever came into the branch.

“Many were given your personal contact details. You were able therefore to create a much higher degree of confidence and trust.

“Some of these people were friends and some, indeed, relations. There were multiple victims. You targeted vulnerable victims who you groomed into believing you were their friend.”

Earlier, the court heard Benham was under pressure to achieve bonus targets at work and was in debt, although he did not have a lavish lifestyle. His fraud originally began when he took money from an account to cover loan insurance for another customer which should have been cancelled.

Benham continued to cover his tracks and siphon off cash by borrowing more money from other loans and accounts to conceal the frauds.

Jonathan Goodman, mitigating, said of his client: “He’s essentially a broken man.”

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