Lloyds security boss said she was entitled to £2.5million she stole from bank… and wants to retire to her French cottage
Jessica Harper, 50, said she was entitled to the cash because she was ‘loyal’ and worked ‘long hours’
Her £60,000 security role at the bank included fighting fraud
The millions of pounds were stolen during the height of the financial crisis when Lloyds received substantial amounts of tax payers money
As the woman entrusted with stopping online fraud at one of Britain’s biggest banks, Jessica Harper naturally put in long hours.
So long, in fact, that the well-spoken 50-year-old – a keen gardener and Rotarian – decided she deserved some extra cash.
Except that rather than wait for a pay rise, Harper turned to fraud herself, embezzling millions of pounds from her employer, taxpayer-backed Lloyds.
She lavished the money on landscaping her garden in South Croydon and renovating a second house in France, as well as giving large sums to her family.
When she was arrested after an internal audit uncovered the fraud, Harper said: ‘I just saw the opportunity and I thought, “Well maybe considering the hours I work and everything else I deserved it”. I know it is stupid, but that’s probably how I felt. If I went to work at another bank I would probably be earning four times my salary.’
Yesterday Harper was jailed for five years after stealing almost £2.5million from the Lloyds Banking Group by submitting dozens of false business invoices.
The fraud took place over four years, as the firm was hit by the credit crunch and bailed out by the Government.
Harper, who was the head of fraud and security for digital banking, told the authorities she had sold her home and cashed in a pension and shares worth £300,000 in an attempt to pay back some of the money.
But the Mail can reveal she secretly invested in a sought-after French property – a former police station – and still dreams of retiring there.
The three-storey townhouse is in the idyllic village of La Trimouille, in Poitou-Charentes, south-west France, the Mail discovered.
She has never declared that house to police, and could face fresh charges if it is proved she deliberately concealed it.
Harper spent up to £250,000 on building work and luxury fittings to renovate the once derelict property, which she bought for only £20,000.
The oak-beamed house has three bedrooms, a courtyard and large wine cellar, as well as a £36,000 state-of-the-art kitchen.
Harper was paying French tradesmen for work right up until April, five months after she was arrested for fraud and released on bail.
Her mother Helen Tyrrell, 78, lives in a nearby hamlet, and neighbours said a considerable amount of money had recently been spent on her four-bedroom home, too.
Members of the expat community said Harper made regular trips to visit her mother and oversee the building work – and even planned to buy the jailhouse next door.
One woman said: ‘Everyone used to look forward to Jessica’s arrival as she used to come with suitcases full of items and hold clothes parties. She would have £400 designer jackets that she had worn just once and sell them for £20.
‘She’s told people that the French properties will not be affected by the court case and they’ve just been mothballed for now.’
Southwark Crown Court was told the fraud began in 2007, when Harper set up a payment account to a fake software company, altering an email invoice from a genuine supplier by inserting her own bank account details. Over the next four years Harper, who earned up to £70,000 a year, submitted 93 fake invoices worth £2,463,750.
Prosecutor Anthony Swift said she lavished the cash on her garden and on her brothers, who used it to invest in rental properties.
Harper claimed she gave a further £250,000 to charities and other people, but investigators have not been able to trace the money.
Her brothers, Simeon, Matthew, and Gareth Tyrell, were arrested and questioned over whether they knew the cash was stolen. The prosecutor said her family were ‘shocked, upset and surprised’, as they had believed she was much more highly paid and could afford the gifts.
Harper lived in her semi-detached Edwardian home with Gareth, 46, after separating from her husband John, 50. Another of her brothers, Matthew, runs a networking company working with music stars such as Bob Geldof and Rihanna.
Harper was jailed for five years after admitting fraud and a further four years, to run concurrently, for money laundering.
Source: Linkedin - 1 October 2012