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Gloucestershire Business News

Bank manager defrauded almost £175,000

A Lloyds Bank manager's 'quite remarkable' gambling addiction led him to breach his trusted position and defraud his employers of almost £175,000, a court was told on Thursday (February 2).

Ashley Chamberlain, 33, of Swift Road, Abbeydale, Gloucester, appeared before Gloucester Crown Court to be sentenced for the fraud - but the judge decided to delay for five months to see how much money Chamberlain can raise to pay compensation to Lloyds.

However, Judge Ian Lawrie KC warned Chamberlain that no matter how much he can offer when he returns to court on July 13, he may still be jailed.

The judge said: "Just because you are going through this process of raising funds to repay a significant part of your debt does not mean it is a passport out of prison."

"You have indulged in a significant course of dishonesty involving a significant amount of money by dishonest means and in breach of trust.

"How is it that someone who is intelligent and hard working with a solid, comfortable background, children and a supportive wife has indulged in such a serious course of dishonesty, whether the reason is gambling or otherwise?"

The judge told him to co-operate with his lawyers in realising whatever assets he could to raise funds.

Matthew Harbinson, defending, told the court that Chamberlain has a pension fund of about £60,000 which will 'significantly reduce' by about one-third the amount he owes to Lloyds.

Mr Harbinson said: "I am also informed that he owns a property."

"The house he and his wife and children were living in has been sold and the equity has gone. However, there is another property and my understanding is that the equity in that would further reduce the debt by a similar amount."

Mr Harbinson said that, as a 'tremendous amount is riding on this' for Chamberlain, the court might feel there would be benefit in deferring sentence to see how much could ultimately be found to repay Lloyds.

"Mitigation could then be presented on an outstanding sum significantly less than now," he said.

"I am not suggesting restitution would be a determining factor in sentence."

He said that as well as raising capital sums from his pension and property sale, Chamberlain was also repaying Lloyds by monthly instalments of £360.

Ian Fenny, prosecuting, told the court however that no matter how much Chamberlain is ultimately able to repay the court's sentencing guidelines called for a prison term.

Judge Lawrie agreed that the starting point in his consideration would be five years jail.

Mr Fenny said he did not want to stand in the way, however, of Chamberlain mitigating his offence by raising money.

"Better that he does it before sentence than after sentence," he said.

"The mechanism of his offence in this case was simple and the loss large."

Judge Lawrie said "At least it would be living proof that he is good to his word.

The judge went on to say that he had references for Chamberlain which shed a different light on him and one person had even described him 'as a person of high integrity.'

"Yet he is dishonest!" said the judge.

Mr Harbinson said "He has a gambling issue. There is a lot to be said on his behalf. He has attended Gamblers Anonymous and continues to do so.

"The extent of his gambling goes over and beyond anything I have previously met. It is quite remarkable."

Bailing Chamberlain to July 13th, the judge said he wanted to know more about what led Chamberlain to breach his employer's trust and to develop such a gambling problem.

"I want to know whether it was out of necessity or, frankly, just committed in greed," he added.

Chamberlain has pleaded guilty to a charge that between December 31, 2017, and June 9, 2021, he abused his position by committing fraud while he was branch manager of Lloyds in Eastgate Street, Gloucester, and was expected to safeguard and not act against the interests of the Lloyds Banking Group and that he used his position to make a gain of £174,581 for himself.

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