Banker who gambled away €341k he swindled from clients avoids jail

George Simpson (37) left Antrim Crown Court with a 28-month jail term, suspended for three years

A Co Londonderry banker has admitted fraud amounting to more than £800,000. George Simpson, from the Ballymadigan Road in Castlerock, pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud in June 2015. The 37-year-old abused his position as a personal banker with Santander PLC to transfer money to his own account

Steven Moore and Paul HigginsSunday World

A banker who gambled hundreds of thousands of pounds of his wealthy clients cash has avoided jail by quitting his destructive habit.

George Simpson swindled more than £300,000 (€341k) from Santander Bank to fund his chronic gambling addiction but walked away with a suspended jail sentence this week - despite still owing the bank a whopping £174,816,

The 37-year-old left Antrim Crown Court with a 28-month jail term, suspended for three years after the judge explained she had come to her decision given the independent evidence that Simpson had “rehabilitated himself” and had been “abstinent from gambling” for the last three years.

Judge McCormick KC, added, “He will never be able to escape the effects of his offending behaviour,” adding that the “disgrace, embarrassment, shame and ignominy will live with him for the rest of his life.”

Previous courts heard that essentially, Simpson was “robbing Peter to pay Paul,” exploiting his “privileged position” within Santander bank where he had “full access to the banking systems” to cash in bonds.

The frauds were exposed however when the executor of a dead man’s will noticed anomalies in the estate.

Simpson, from the Ballymadigan Road in Castlerock, has entered guilty pleas to six charges of fraud by abuse of position in that between 15 May and 31 October 2015, he abused his position as a personal banker with Santander PLC to transfer money to his own account.

He told the Sunday World, when we called at his home last month, there was much more behind him simply ripping off customers of the global bank where he had been a highly respected personal banker.

And he lamented that reports he had simply robbed the money from his clients had resulted in him losing a new job he had secured after admitting the thefts.

Simpson told us at the time he didn’t want to say too much until he has been sentenced – though he has remained silent.

“I’m not blaming you but what’s been written before has resulted in me losing my job,” he explained from his doorstep in February.

“What has appeared already in the papers is not the full story. There’s a lot more behind it but I can’t speak about it until after the sentencing.”

Northern Ireland has one of the highest rates of gambling in the UK.

While the total figure swindled by Simpson was £355,096, the fraudster had redeposited £180,280 which left the bank suffering a loss of £174,816.

Though he had taken the money from the bank’s customers the bank had repaid all of them meaning it was the bank who was ultimately the victim to his thefts.

Lodging an impassioned plea in mitigation seeking to persuade the judge to take an exceptional course, defence counsel Jonathan Browne described how Simpson’s addiction began by gambling on fruit machines as a young teenager.

Working for a different bank in 2009, Simpson developed PTSD when the bank was subject to an armed robbery and that exacerbated his addiction which “became problematic” around 2012 with this offending beginning in 2015 “with a context of falling into arrears with his mortgage.”

Mr Browne argued it was clever from the opinion of a clinical psychologist the gambling addiction was a “significant contributing factor” in the frauds perpetrated by Simpson but that since then, he has taken active steps to stop gambling and rehabilitate himself.

That included an 80% attendance at weekly meetings of Gamblers Anonymous since 2020, registering with Gamstop to exclude himself and flag himself up to online gambling companies and taking steps to repay accrued debts.

Mr Browne submitted sheafs of bank statements to evidence how Simpson had stopped gambling and the fraudster’s mum gave evidence that she had seen a change in him since 2020, testifying that unlike the past he made household contributions, paid back small loans and attended his weekly GA meetings.

In addition to the suspended jail sentence, Judge McCormick also ordered Simpson to pay back £7,000 as part restitution and warned him any further offences would likely lead to him going to jail.

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