A BUILDING society financial adviser was jailed for 18 months yesterday for stealing nearly £30,000 from an 85-year-old woman’s life savings.
Gillian Geddes siphoned the money from an account held by Janet Gair after befriending her while acting as her personal customer account manager at the Dunfermline Building Society branch in Kirkcaldy, Fife.
Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court heard that Geddes, 51, who had worked in the banking sector for more than 30 years, built up a “close and personal relationship” with her victim, arranging workmen for house renovations, and managing her account properly in the lead-up to embezzlement. But then, using account details she had access to, she began taking a few hundred pounds from the pensioner’s account to pay off her mounting debts.
With debt collectors putting her under pressure, she started to regularly transfer money out of Mrs Gair’s account. Between May 2010 and December 2011 she removed a total of £27,600 from Mrs Gair’s account.
Sheriff James Williamson said she had “breached the trust of a vulnerable elderly lady” and “exploited” the friendship they built up. Geddes, of Sandwell Crescent, Kirkcaldy, pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
The court heard that the Nationwide building society, which took over the Dunfermline after the smaller society effectively collapsed in 2009, had since paid the money back to the pensioner.
Nigel Cook, defending, said Geddes, a mother of one, had actually lost track of how much she had taken. He said: “Mrs Geddes worked for Nationwide for 26 years before leaving to pursue other avenues. She then returned to work for the Dunfermline Building Society, where she was for six years.”
He said: “The offence is very serious. The trigger for Mrs Geddes to become involved was that she had built up a fairly close and personal relationship with Mrs Gair. She started out dealing with matters in good faith. She spent a lot of time helping the lady with her accounts.
“But she found herself in a position where she built up very substantial debts, of around £70,000 plus her mortgage.
Geddes was under “considerable pressure from debt companies”, and was unable to make payments, he said. “Instead of telling her husband, she tried to keep it to herself.
“She thought she could take some money, use it in the short term, and repay it. She took a few hundred pounds here and there over a period of time. She didn’t know how much had been taken and how much she needed to repay. It became unmanageable.”
He said his client had had “suicidical thoughts” and was “extremely ashamed”.
Sheriff Williamson told Geddes: “This offence represents a significant breach of trust on two levels. First in relation to your employers, as it was through them you managed to embezzle these sums.
“It also represents a breach of the trust of a vulnerable and elderly lady. You made friends with her and exploited that to extract sums of £27,000.
“I have carefully considered the reports and the exceptional speech in mitigation. I’m afraid, however, given the whole background and the extent of the embezzlement I have no alternative but to impose a custodial sentence.”