Ex-Nationwide employee Joanne Tewson, 33, was spared jail by a judge after her ‘blameworthiness was reduced’ due to her suffering from a psychological crisis during the ‘doomed’ fraud spree.
Portsmouth Crown Court heard how Tewson, of Newgate Lane, Fareham, duped mainly older customers on up to 15 occasions in her role as a member representative after they withdrew cash in person between October 15, 2019 and February 20, 2020.
During the transactions, the mum withdrew £1,000 on each occasion from the unsuspecting individuals’ accounts before pocketing their cash for herself.
Prosecutor James Kellam said: ‘(Tewson) kept the money for herself. Many of those defrauded were elderly who use a passbook.’
After taking the cash, though, the Nationwide worker would bizarrely throw it all away. ‘She would throw the cash away from her moving car or throw it into the river,’ Mr Kellam added.
‘It was an abuse of position and trust. She was quite literally trusted with clients' money and building society assets.
‘Every one of the clients was reimbursed. The building society was left with a loss of £15,000.
‘It was an unsophisticated fraud that was doomed to be discovered.’
Amid concerns being raised, a fraud investigation was launched before Tewson was confronted and admitted her criminality. This resulted in her being instantly sacked and then arrested by police.
The court heard how the defendant, who had no previous offences to her name, had suffered a psychological crisis at the time and had since received help from a therapist.
Bridget O’Hagan, defending, said: ‘Customers were not targeted by age but by their passbooks. That was the trigger.’
The lawyer said Tewson’s family had rallied round and would pay back Nationwide the full sum of money defrauded.
Tewson admitted a single charge of fraud by abuse of position.
Judge David Melville QC described the offending as ‘extraordinary’ by someone of Tewson’s ‘charm and capabilities’.
‘You withdrew £1,000 on each occasion without them knowing. It happened on 15 occasions with the £15,000 diverted to you rather than them,’ he said.
‘It was an extraordinary series of events. You had no need for the money and some ended up being thrown into Fareham creek or out of the car window as you drove home.’
But, in sentencing Tewson, he highlighted Tewson’s mental health difficulties at the time. ‘Fortunately there is an explanation,’ he said.
‘It can only have been caused by the acute psychological conditions you were suffering at the time.’
The judge's decision to spare married Tewson jail was also reinforced by her having two young children. ‘The idea of you departing to prison is an appalling thought and it is entirely appropriate to suspend the sentence,’ he said.
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Tewson was handed a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
She must also complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay back £15,175 in compensation to Nationwide.