A financial consultant who stole Ј10m from the bank he worked for and from 84 private clients was yesterday jailed for 12 years, after a court heard that the money had been used to fund his obsession with gambling on horses.
Graham Price spent millions on buying information from tipsters and unsuccessfully betting via the internet. He also bought shares in 13 horses and used some of the stolen funds to pay off mortgages and buy expensive cars and luxury holidays. His scam unravelled when an auditor found a signed IOU for Ј7m to the Halifax in his safe.
Investigators found that Price, who worked as an agent for the Halifax, had been conning private clients for almost four years and the bank for 18 months.
About 50 of his victims, many of them elderly, packed into Swansea crown court to see him sentenced, but afterwards many expressed anger at the Halifax, claiming it ought to have spotted his con earlier.
Passing sentence on Price, 58, Judge John Diehl QC said Price's deception was "of the gravest order". He said investors had lost homes, retirement nest eggs and inheritances. Some had been forced to sell their homes, others to return to work having retired on the money they thought Price had made for them.
Working from his office in the village of Gowerton, near Swansea, Price seemed the epitome of a respectable businessman. Eight years ago he began working as an agent for the Halifax, running counter services for the bank while working as a financial consultant on the side. He came to be known as "Mr Halifax" in the village and the office won the agency of the year award.
But last year an audit took place while Price was on holiday in New York. When the auditor looked in the safe she found a note on a slip which read "I Graham Price borrowed Ј7m from the Halifax" and was signed by him. Investigators found that the scam had begun in January 2001 when he started offering clients high returns for their money - up to 270% a year - by investing in property schemes.
Peter Douglas-Jones, defending, said Price always hoped his gambling would come good and he would be able to pay everyone back.
The Halifax insisted it was not responsible for customers conned by Price when he acted in his private capacity as a financial adviser.
Price admitted 43 counts of theft and deception and asked for 263 similar offences to be taken into account, The Guardian reports.