Thursday, August 29, 2019

Halifax bank clerk who stole thousands from elderly customers' savings including from one woman who died three months later avoids jail

  • Rohima Khanam, 22, of Hyde, Greater, Manchester, diverted cash to her partner 
  • She noted down account details of pensioners when they made bank transfers
  • But daughter of a customer noticed £4,500 had gone missing from his account
  • Khanam admitted theft and was told to complete 210 hours of unpaid work
Rohima Khanam, 22, is pictured at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester yesterday
Rohima Khanam, 22, is pictured at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester yesterday
A bank clerk who raided the accounts of elderly customers as she served them in their local branch has avoided jail after claiming she was forced to steal the money by her controlling boyfriend.
Rohima Khanam, 22, of Hyde, Greater, Manchester, secretly diverted cash to her partner after noting down the account details of pensioners aged 76 to 87 whenever they made bank transfers.
Khanam, who worked at Halifax, took a total of £5,700 from four victims before being caught when the daughter of one of the pensioners noticed £4,500 had gone missing from his account.
It emerged that in most thefts, she would process her victim's transfer requests and then pocket whatever she wanted due to a loophole in the operating system which allows cashiers to process five transactions from the one customer login. It is believed none of the victims were able to use online banking.
At Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester, Khanam admitted theft and was told to complete 210 hours' unpaid work as part of a 12-month community order in which she will attend a women's counselling programme. 
The daughter said: 'The fact that large amounts of money was taken is a shock to my father. He had trust in the bank. He is now worried about the safety of his money. 
'He now needs constant reassurance and he becomes agitated if he's not given that reassurance about his money being safe. He suffers from dementia. At the time of this offence, my mother was suffering from terminal illness.
Khanam (centre) raided the accounts of elderly customers as she served them in their branch
Khanam (centre) raided the accounts of elderly customers as she served them in their branch
'She was in palliative care and died 12 weeks after the theft. My parents both worked very hard to support themselves and their children all their life. They saved for their retirement and care in their old age. 
'The stress of the money being taken has left me with serious concerns about my dad's health. Our family should be grieving for the loss of my mum but instead of my mum but instead we're worrying about this.'
Khanam, who is registered as living at a two-bedroom terraced house worth £93,000 in Hyde, later admitted taking the money but said all was transferred to her boyfriend with whom she was in an abusive relationship. 
t is not known whether the couple are still together. The victims of her scam are thought to have been paid back in full by the bank's insurers.
The incidents occurred between January and March of 2017, two years after Khanam was taken on at the Hyde branch aged just 17.
Lisa Boocock, prosecuting, said: 'The first complainant, an elderly lady who was 76 at the time came into the bank to do a bank transfer of £100 from one of her accounts to another.
'The defendant processed Ms Dickinson's transfer but then transferred £100 to her own account. 
'The thing about transferring money via the chip and Pin system in a branch is that five transactions can be authorised by the cashier without further input from the customer.'
She said the second complainant, who suffers from very ill health, visited the branch and was served by Khanam 'who he remembers as being very nervous and not making eye contact'.
Miss Boocock added: 'He also transferred some money in the same way and again the defendant transferred £100 to her own account.
'The next complainant was well known in the branch. He was 86 at the time of this offence and often came in with his daughter who has power of attorney over his bank accounts as he suffers from dementia. 
'The daughter noticed her father's account balance was low and looking at his records she saw between March 9 and 13, withdrawals had been made totalling £4500. The daughter complained as a result.
'One gentleman who was 87 at the time of the offending came to the branch to withdraw £40. 
'He did indeed withdraw £40 and left with the £40 which was visible in his hand on CCTV. But a couple of hours after he left, £1000 was withdrawn from his account and was marked on his transactions as having been made in error.
'When the defendant was challenged about this she said she had corrected the error by phone - when of course she never did. She then faced a disciplinary procedure.
'When she was challenged she said she hadn't followed procedure for what should be done in such cases but that she didn't do anything wrong. She said it was a mistake. 
'She was then dismissed from the branch and Halifax informed police. She was subjected to a lengthy investigation by police which involved them looking through CCTV and numerous bank records. It took a very long time and in May of this year she was charged.'
The bank's insurers said: 'These incidents have caused harm to the customers of the branch and the fraudulent actions are damaging the trust the customers have in the cashiers at the bank - particularly elderly and vulnerable customers whose trust was abused. What happened was damaging to the image of the bank.'
In mitigation for Khanam, defence lawyer Adam Watkins said: 'She acknowledges the seriousness of this offending and takes full responsibility for what she has done. 
'She was described by probation officers as being ashamed and tearful in their interview with her - she has shown victim empathy.
'She had entered an abusive relationship when she was in school at around the age of 16 and the nature of that relationship had an effect on her behaviour. 
'That relationship has been described as having differing types of abuse on this defendant and resulted in estrangement from her family. Around the time of this offending she was living in a supported hostel and was using alcohol.
'Her relationship with that man is intrinsically linked to the offending. In the period from 2017 when the investigation began to May 2019 when she was charged, her behaviour has been exemplary.
'She has gained and kept employment. As a consequence of her being brought before the courts, her employment opportunities have diminished dramatically. 
'She was 19 at the time of the offending and is of previous good character. The impact this conviction has had on her and will continue to have on her.'
Sentencing, Judge Tina Landale told Khanam: 'This was certainly a high breach of trust and you caused real distress to the victims and their families - something they will have to live with. 
'This conduct was planned and deliberate but I accept that you were under extreme pressure from a controlling and abusive partner. You did not benefit financially from this and it was your partner who did so.
'You were 19 at the time of this offending and have committed no further offences since these and have been in employment since then. 
'I accept you pose a low risk of reoffending and a low risk to the general public and that you have a high chance of rehabilitation. If you complete a programme set out for you here it might help you escape the situation that you find yourself in.' 

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