By Michael MacLeod
A CROOKED ex-bank boss sobbed in the dock as she was jailed for 13 months after pocketing £22,290 from her customers.
Shamed former Lloyds TSB manageress Susan Burnett swindled the cash from elderly account holders to pay off her own debts.
But she was caught when the pensioners noticed massive sums disappearing from their bank balances.
The 40 year-old tried to bail herself out of a jail term by selling her house to pay back the money.
Having worked her way to the top of two bank branches over 18 years, her sacking later saw her reduced to working cash-in-hand in a Chinese restaurant.
But that cut no ice with Sheriff Derrick McIntyre who told her: “You can’t buy yourself out of a custodial sentence.”
He said he had to “acknowledge the public interest” over her own regret and remorse.
The Dalgety Bay woman managed Lloyds TSB branches in Edinburgh and Fife towards the end of her 18-year spell with the bank.
Court heard how she targeted one specific customer, a woman in her 60s, by telling her she could help her sort her finances out. Instead, Burnett made two loan applications in her name for a total of £7,400 and diverted the cash into her own bank account.
A police investigation then found Burnett had already illegally transferred a further £11,390 from the same woman’s account.
As police probed the fiddled accounts they were contacted by another woman, also described as being elderly, whose account had been raided of £3,500 without her approval.
Fiscal Depute Aidan Higgins said it didn’t take long for Lloyds TSB’s own investigators to trace the culprit.
He previously said: “Suspicion fell on the accused that she, as manager of the Haymarket branch of Lloyds TSB, had diverted funds from the woman’s account to accounts either in her name or others to which she had access.
“Those investigating within the bank were satisfied that the accused was suspected of criminal behaviour.”
She was pulled into an internal “fact finding interview” with her bosses on November 22, 2006, and admitted taking the cash.
Mr Higgins said a relative of Burnett had paid cheques into the accounts of her victims as “repayment” for her actions, each for the exact amount taken.
However, she was detained by police in August last year and appeared in court in June this year on embezzlement and fraud charges, which were admitted in August.
Burnett’s defence agent Angus McLennan said: “She worked with the bank for many years and had been promoted within the bank to this position of trust.
“She rose through the ranks but she had mounting debt problems by living above her means.
“There had been an element of sticking her head in the sand.”
Sheriff McIntyre asked: “Why didn’t she get a loan from the bank? If a bank manager can’t get a loan then who can?”
Mr McLennan claimed Burnett should not have been jailed as she had already suffered.
He said: “She fully accepts the stupidity of her actions.
“It’s been a substantial fall from grace for her as she was dismissed immediately from her employment.
“There are already significant penalties for her in that she will never work in a position of trust again.
“She is now working in a Chinese restaurant, getting paid cash in hand as she is registered as self-employed.
“They have lost their home as a result of her difficulty with money following on from this offence.”
But Sheriff McIntyre jailed the banker this morning, saying he had “no option.”
He told her: “You pled guilty to a charge of embezzlement of almost £15,000 and fraud to the value of almost £7,500.
“The embezzlement occurred over an 18 month period and the fraud over six months.
“You have no previous convictions and at the time you were the manageress of a bank, thus in a senior position of trust – not just a bank teller stealing a few hundred pounds.
“Not withstanding the fact you are considered a low risk and are very remorseful, given the senior position of trust you were in, I am afraid I have no option but to acknowledge that it is in the public interest to impose a custodial sentence.
“You can’t buy your way out of custody, but I am able to mitigate the sentence to an extent.”
He added that Burnett’s 13-month sentence was reduced from 18 months, due to her repayment of the cash.