TV presenter Gloria Hunniford has €138,000 drained from her account after imposter walks into bank and dupes cashier
Published 19/08/2016 | 14:46
Rip Off Britain presenter Gloria Hunniford was the victim of a £120,000 fraud by an imposter posing as the star.
The 76-year-old Loose Women panelist's bank account was emptied just days after the woman arrived at a Santander branch with her "daughter" and "grandson".
Personal banker Aysha Davis, 28, said the woman told her she had "a few bob" in there and had come to add the teenager as a signatory because she had been ill.
She then helped them complete the paperwork, including photocopying their driving licences, at the Croydon North End branch.
Davis was accused of being part of the plot but was acquitted after less than 30 minutes of jury deliberation after saying the TV star was "not of my time".
Police are still hunting for the ‘lookalike’ and her ‘daughter’, while stand-in grandson Alan Dowie, 18, faces jail.
He will be sentenced alongside Reyon Dillon, also 18, who laundered some of the cash from the scam.
The court heard Santander have reimbursed the money stolen from Ms Hunniford's account after it was drained of £120,000.
Giving evidence, Davis said she had never met Dowie before he walked into the bank and had to google TV star Ms Hunniford - who regularly appears on This Morning and The One Show - to find out who she was.
"The name on the ID card was Mary Winifred Gloria Hunniford, and sorry to be stereotypical but this lady looked like a Mary," she told jurors.
"I had to google Gloria Hunniford and even if I passed her on the street I wouldn't recognise her because she's not from my time."
Prosecutor Sheilagh Davies said: "But she's pretty famous."
Jurors giggled when the defendant replied: "In your opinion."
The prosecutor said it was ironic that Ms Hunniford presented consumer complaints programme Rip Off Britain.
Davis said she had spent the morning doing paperwork before going to the cash desk to book customers in for meetings about opening new accounts.
She then went to the main banking hall to help any customers who had not yet joined a queue and looked like they needed help.
CCTV footage shows Davis approaching a black male to ask him if he needs assistance, before speaking to the three fraudsters.
"The lady said 'I've come to add my grandson to my account' she said she had 'a few bob' in there and that she'd been ill.
"The old lady had her bank card and her driving licence - it's not rare people wanting to add someone to their account, so this was just the same as always."
When asked if she would recognise Gloria Hunniford, she replied: "I didn't recognise her or I would have done something about it. I wouldn't have gone ahead with the transaction."
She said she had passed both driving licences under the UV scanner and both had illuminated correctly and then photocopied them.
"I had never seen these people in my life before - I had no part in what I am accused of.
"Banks get defrauded every day but because of the high profile of the person on the account, I am being used as a scapegoat to try and repair the damage to the bank's reputation.
"I was three months pregnant at the time and the only thing I was focused on was the pregnancy."
She continued: "I spoke to the black male before and if he had said I want to open an account, would have taken him up to my office."
The prosecutor said: "The account had a significant cash balance, the boy was clearly young, only 17, did you not question it?"
Davis continued: "I asked the older lady 'How come you're adding your grandson and not your daughter?' she said she'd been ill and she wanted to add her grandson.
"I'm a working class person and I don't see that kind of money every day, but some people you think would have lots of money have nothing, and some people who you think wouldn't have much have quite a lot."
She said that as they had all the correct ID documents and paperwork it wasn't her job to pry for fear of causing offence.
Jurors were told that one of the forms was missing, but Davis said: "If I was purposefully doing something wrong I would have done everything right to cover my back.
"Just because I made a mistake and I would have gotten into trouble at work it doesn't implicate me in this fraud."
Davis, of Streatham, south London, denied one count of conspiracy to defraud.
Dowie, of Oxted, Surrey, has already pleaded guilty to the same charge.
Dillon, of Croydon, pleaded guilty to money laundering.
Dowie and Dillon will be sentenced later today.
A Santander spokeswoman said: "Santander takes fraud extremely seriously. As soon as we identified this fraudulent activity we alerted the authorities as well as Ms Hunniford herself.
"We are very sympathetic to the distress caused to Ms Hunniford for being the victim of a scam and as is our normal practice in a case like this, we have reimbursed her fully for her financial loss.
"We have also made significant improvements to our processes to ensure this type of fraudulent activity is prevented in future."