Bank worker jailed for thefts


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The Independent Online

A trusted bank worker, charity volunteer and church warden was jailed for two-and-a-half years today for stealing £167,000 from the old and vulnerable.

Gaynor Russ, 59, was the friendly face of banking for 40 years at a small south Wales valley branch of Barclays.

Her informal way of handling accounts was seen by many as a pleasant throwback to a bygone age and trust in her was high.

She was unmasked today as a cynical manipulator who preyed on friends and the old and vulnerable in an effort to plunder cash.

But her victims were shocked and angry at what they saw as a lenient sentence handed down at Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court.

Russ had previously admitted 13 counts of fraud covering a 10-month period to 2008 at a hearing earlier this month.

Today the full scale of the double life she was forced to lead to hide her fraudulent activities was laid bare.

Russ, of Dumfries Street, Treorchy, south Wales, was counter manager at the nearby Treherbert branch of Barclays Bank.

Lucy Crowther, prosecuting, told the court that her fraudulent activities began in late 2007 and ran until November 2010.

The offences which she admitted, and were accepted by the prosecution, cover the more narrowly defined period.

Ms Crowther said that each offence was linked to a specific victim's account held at the branch.

The victims themselves were often so shocked when they learned of the deception they could not believe the truth.

Victim Sharon Thomas had charge of an account of her brother Michael Dobbs who suffered severe learning difficulties.

At least £20,000 went missing from his account in early August 2007, the bulk of which was later replaced over a series of years.

The court heard Russ moved large sums of cash in and out of a variety of accounts, juggling finances in an effort to hide her fraud.

She would find ways to delay customer statements to hide her activities and regularly had to step in to solve discrepancies.

Ms Crowther said that Mrs Thomas described Gaynor Russ as "an honest, very caring person. A good all-round Christian and a church warden,"

She added that Mrs Thomas she felt that Russ had targeted her brother's account because he would not understand what was going on.

The court was told that Russ targeted a long list of people and organisations.

They included a local hospital league of friends for which Russ acted as treasurer.

Another loser was former miner Garfield Beynon, 82, who had received a substantial pay out for ill health connected with his life down the mines.

Despite the fact that he struggled for breath and was spending part of every day on oxygen, Russ plundered his account to the tune of £55,000.