An anti-fraud Santander manager has been jailed for 18 months for targeting the elderly and vulnerable customers she was employed to protect during a four-year £179,900 fraud.

Customer account manager Charlotte Mills, 33, preyed on the accounts of customers, mostly in their 70s and 80s she had met at the branch in Abingdon.

Mills, of Titchener Close, Bicester, blew the lot playing online slot machines and is currently penniless and out of work.

She pleaded guilty at Inner London Crown Court on Friday to fraud by abuse of position between June 30, 2015 and December 1, 2019, namely dishonestly making dishonest withdrawals from customers’ accounts.

Judge Usha Karu, the Recorder of Southwark told tearful Mills: “Your responsibilities included supporting customers who had been victims of fraud and you had the codes to identify them and access their accounts.

“This was a gross abuse of a position on trust and you covered up what you were doing. There was planning and it was fraudulent over a large period of time and there were a large number of victims you deliberately targeted because of their age.

“Had you not been rumbled, investigated and arrested I don’t think you would have stopped.”

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One man in his 80s had £64,000 taken from his account and a man his 70s over £20,000 from his “dormant” account, which Mills covered up by providing him a new passbook.

A woman in her 70s had £133,500 taken and another female customer in her eighties said she was “knocked sideways” when £15,000 of her money was taken by Mills.

Another man in his 80s had £18,000 taken and a male customer in his 70s, who had savings for a “rainy day” saw over £86,000 vanish from his account.

Santander Bank is closing 111 branches.

Santander Bank is closing 111 branches.

Mills also deliberately blocked postal statements being sent to the victims, believing the elderly customers were less likely to check their accounts online.

An investigation was launched when one customer complained of a suspicious transaction put through by Mills and she was arrested in the branch on December 2, 2019 and confessed fully to police, even to offences officers were unaware of.

Prosecutor Mr Nicholas Mesure told the court: “She was trusted by her employers and worked there for eleven years until she resigned and worked well and was promoted to Customer Service Manager.

“She supported customers who had been victims of fraud and was able to access those customers’ accounts and she was well known by those customers, who knew her by sight. What Ms Mills did was identify vulnerable customers and then transfer funds out of their accounts and the Crown say she was targeting people less likely to notice unauthorised withdrawals on their accounts.

“She knew them all and had served them in the branch and she cancelled their postal statements so they would be less likely to see the withdrawals from their funds.

“If any customer queried a withdrawal they would speak to her because that was her role and then she would correct the discrepancy so the customer reported they had received good service. from her.”

Mills went out of her way to follow another elderly couple she targeted to a local shop, impressing them by hand-delivering a bank statement, which she created to cover-up her fraud.

“These are elderly people, the kind of people who suffer considerable distress and they all describe themselves as shocked and anxious as to what happened,” added the prosecutor. “She was adept at covering her tracks and that allowed her to avoid detection for a number of years.”

Mills’ lawyer Mr Tom Orpin-Massey told the court she quit gambling two days after her arrest and a psychiatrist has compared her habit to a mental disorder.

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“She was, a the time of offending, a severe gambling addict. It is clear that at the time of offending her judgement was impaired.She has not made any money from gambling and the money was dissipated on online slot machines.

“She has expressed sincere remorse for her offending and a prison sentence would hit her very hard indeed. She has arrived at court today absolutely petrified of a custodial sentence. She is starting again. She has no job, her career has been ruined. She has no savings, she has not lived an extravagantly.



“It was an addictions and she has lost all the money she acquired and she has not benefitted financially.”

The judge calculated Mills gambled away approximately £40,000 a year for over four years. “You started with one account taking smaller amounts of £400 and £500, but soon your desire for more and more money increased.

“You were stealing vast sums of money, robbing Peter to pay Paul to cover up by stealing from one to pay another,” added Judge Karu.

Mills had got into debt, which her late father paid off, from her online gambling and then maxed-out credit cards before taking from customers to fund her addiction.

“I accept you are truly remorseful and I accept the mental disorder is linked to the offence,” the judge told single Mills. “This is an offence so serious only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate.

“I am afraid I don’t think it can be suspended. The only sentence when a large amount of money is stolen from so many customers over a long period of time is immediate custody.”

Mills contributed her £7,500 help-to-buy ISA, plus £160 cash seized by police when officers raided her home to Santander, which has compensated all of the customers.

She is now subject to Proceeds of Crime proceedings.