A BANK worker who raided customers’ accounts to fund his addiction to fixed odds betting machines has been jailed at Bolton Crown Court.

The court heard how Ben Spencer lost cash on the machines and dipped into Santander customers’ accounts when he could not afford the pay-day loans he had taken out to repay his debts.

Daniel Calder, prosecuting, told how 23-year-old Spencer was taken on by the bank in January 2010, as a customer advisor, but in August 2011 he was promoted to the position of personal account manager, which allowed him to have a unique reference number giving him access to customer accounts.

Recorder Philip Curran said it was a “pity” no one realised at that time that Spencer, who worked at branches across Greater Manchester, had a gambling problem.

Mr Calder said that just over a year after Spencer was promoted, on August 31, 2012, he transferred £1,000 from a customer’s account into a Lloyds TSB account he had set up himself.

He subsequently stole a total of £28,417.85 from 11 customers over the following 16 months, transferring the cash into his own Lloyds TSB account and to two others he had set up for the same purpose.

The crime only came to light in January this year when customer Jeffrey Marsland checked his account and complained to the bank that two lots of £1,000 had been transferred out in October and December last year.

Mr Calder said the complaint sparked an investigation.

He said: “The defendant was swiftly identified as the employee responsible for carrying out those transactions.”

The court heard that Spencer, of Cross Field Drive, Radcliffe, resigned and co-operated with investigators to identify all the customers he had stolen from in order to pay off gambling debts.

“He admitted he had taken the money in an attempt to remedy the spiral he found himself in,” said Mr Calder.

Spencer pleaded guilty to 16 counts of theft.

Rebecca Sharpe, defending, said that although his victims were all over 55 years, their ages were not the reason Spencer had selected them as targets.

They had large sums in their accounts so the bank worker hoped the amounts he stole, which ranged from £27, to more than £3,000 at a time, would not be missed.

She added that Spencer, who has no previous criminal record, had now sought the help of Gamblers Anonymous and is unlikely to appear in court again.

“He makes no attempt to minimise his actions and takes responsibility for them,” said Miss Sharpe.

Jailing Spencer for 12 months, Recorder Curran told him: “The tragedy is that, having got into debt yourself, you tried to get out of it by stealing other people’s money.

“You must have realised at that time that what you were doing was a serious breach of trust.

“It undermines the confidence of people who use banks — people put their money in there in the belief it would be safe.”