Former bank employee sentenced for $400k theft

JAIL: Jenna Lee Robinson.
JAIL: Jenna Lee Robinson.

A former Queenstown bank employee convicted of a $400,000 theft has been jailed for two years and seven months.

Jenna Lee Robinson, 29, of Arthurs Pt, appeared before Judge Michael Turner in Queenstown District Court for directly accessing a computer bank system to set up 16 fictitious accounts with loan and overdraft facilities and five counts of theft on dates between August 2010 and July last year.

Judge Turner said the sentence needed to denounce the behaviour and deter others from behaving similarly in the future. He suppressed reporting of the bank's identity. Robinson used the money to buy a house and pay for holidays, repay credit card debt and buy home furnishings.

He referred to sentencing reports that noted the defendant was ''living the dream'' in Queenstown, happily married with a house and well-paid job.

''One consequence was to cast a shadow on the whole banking team of the [victim] bank in this area. Your colleagues felt guilty because they did not see what was happening and were angry because you lied to them and manipulated them. They felt as if they were unwilling accomplices in your offending. There was an enormous breach of the trust you held in a responsible position.''

Her lawyer Nic Soper said a forensic psychologist's report identified it was likely that Robinson was suffering from schizoid personality disorder but she fully accepted her responsibility and culpability.

Robinson was a gifted student and a highly regarded employee with career prospects. She was poached by another financial institution in Queenstown and after the job change her offending was discovered by investigators.

Soper said the offending was a crushing revelation for colleagues, friends and associates, all of whom believed she was a person with high credentials. Reports referred to an intelligent young woman smart enough to understand the immorality and risk who did not believe she would be caught.

''It [schizoid personality disorder] does not provide of itself an excuse for her actions but it goes some way to providing an explanation as to why.  She has gone about as low as she can go. She comes before the court impecunious, no realistic possibility of meeting reparation. There are some deep seated issues, a degree of alcohol dependence but also the schizoid disorder.''

Civil proceedings were started and bankruptcy was inevitable while Robinson had no realistic job prospects. The house in Arthurs Pt was sold for $470,000 after an initial estimate of $700,000 during a ''fire sale'' after media published details of the real estate listing, Soper said.

Crown lawyer Sarah McKenzie said aggravating factors were the abuse of trust as Robinson worked for the bank for more than six years, she was trusted and respected and the extent of the loss. Overall the bank estimated the cost of the offending, including bank investigations, was more than $500,000, she said.

''She used her experience within the banking industry to undermine the procedures. The offending was premeditated, occurred over a lengthy period in excess of two years.''

Robinson, a business banking relationship manager, resigned from her job in Queenstown in August last year to take a position with another bank. In November, an asset recovery manager reviewed a file with a home loan in arrears and identified the bank did not hold any security regarding the loan.

Multiple discrepancies were identified and the matter was passed to a bank investigation team, who found she used her staff access code between August 16, 2010 - her 26th birthday - and October 25, 2012 to create 16 fictitious accounts and arranged for loans and overdrafts for all the accounts.

Bank staff reviewed CCTV and spotted Robinson making a cash deposit to an account under investigation. Overdrafts and loans ranged between $12,000 and $120,000 and the final sum was $402,386. When interviewed by police she said she used the money to fund a $115,000 deposit for a $575,000 home in Arthurs Pt. Money was also used to pay off credit card debt, pay for a five-week holiday in Canada and a four-week holiday in Japan, holidays in New Zealand and furnishings.

The Southland Times