Ex-worker at Queen’s bank busted giving customers’ details to fraudsters

An ex-employee of the Queen's Coutts bank who gave personal details away to conmen posing as customers in a scam to swipe more than £2.3million has been jailed for four years.

Luke Williams, 32, admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation against the private bank, which counts the Queen among its wealthy clients.

Southwark Crown Court heard Williams worked as a senior customer services officer between 2014 and 2017 for the Coutts 24 service, which provided round-the-clock telephone banking.

Between January and October 2017 some 122 of the bank’s customers were targeted by fraudsters attempting to steal a total of £2,352,666, said prosecutor Jacinta Stringer.

“These are high impact offences with Coutts having suffered significant reputational damage from the breach of their security processes,” she added.

The court heard Williams took calls from each of the customers and had access to their personal details, including security questions, which he would sell on to co-conspirators, including Francis Buckman, 35, and Ricky Burgess, 31.

Fraudsters would then use the information to call Coutts 24 impersonating the bank’s clients to transfer funds from genuine accounts to third parties.

Coutts, which is owned by Royal Bank of Scotland, lost a total of around £1.2 million, having recovered just over £307,000 after paying more than £1.5 million into accounts linked to the fraud.

Judge David Tomlinson sentenced Williams, of Haywards Heath, West Sussex, to four years’ imprisonment on Monday.

Buckman and Burgess, both of Southend, Essex, were handed jail terms of two years and 14 months respectively after also pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

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The judge said: “The conspiracy involved multiple raids on bank accounts with healthy balances and caused a substantial loss to Coutts bank, where you, Luke Williams, were employed at the material time.”

The court heard Buckman made 214 calls to Coutts 24, including while he was on holiday in Spain, in attempts to defraud more than £133,000, with successful frauds worth £43,000.

Police recovered a Rolex watch and season tickets to Arsenal football club during a search of his home.

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Burgess was responsible for £31,500 of the total fraud, £21,000 of which was recovered by Coutts with the remaining amount paid back, it was said.

A fourth defendant, Michael Sonowo, 36, of Romford, east London, was handed a 12-month community order, including 100 hours of unpaid work.

He pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property after his bank account received around £4,000 from the fraud.

Adam James, defending Williams, said his client’s involvement in the fraud stemmed from a gambling addiction, involving betting on horses, sports events, and casino games.

“There were no trappings of wealth or high expenditure, he was feeding the beast of addiction,” he said.

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