SYDNEY — A former Australian bank worker has avoided jail over a more than AU$3 million ($2.27 million) financial scam after the Commonwealth Bank took eight years to report it to police.
George Vrettakos was handed a three-year fully suspended jail sentence on June 24 over the fraud he confessed to more than a decade ago.
Vrettkos took out three separate lines of credit through the Commonwealth Bank — where he worked as a mobile lender — in 2008 and 2009 worth a total of $3.75 million ($2.8 million).
He pleaded guilty to three charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception, pocketing AU$1.4 million ($1.06 million) through the credit lines.
The bank worker didn’t take all the money for himself, initially setting up accounts to pay out loan amounts to customers whose applications were delayed.
Prosecutors described his actions in those cases as “robbing Peter to pay Paul”, and he claimed he had done so because he was under pressure from his bosses to fulfill loans.
But he did also spend a big chunk of change on himself, paying off a loan over a business deal that went bust.
County Court Judge Gavan Meredith said he also spent up big on “lunches, wine, cocaine and girls”, as well as buying a house where he lived with his new bride.
The fraud was uncovered in early 2010 when a solicitor noticed an error with a customer’s property title.
The bank investigated and Vrettakos was first stood down and later fired. He made extensive admissions of his crimes.
The Commonwealth Bank claimed back more than AU$695,000 ($527,862.92) in civil proceedings against Vrettakos in 2010.
But his fraud was not reported to police until 2018, after the frauds and Vrettakos’ admissions were reported in the media. The fraud was further unearthed by the Fraud and Extortion Squad.
Vrettakos’ lawyers told police in 2018 he intended to plead guilty, but he still wasn’t charged until October last year.
Judge Meredith said even now the reason for the delay wasn’t clear to him. Over the last decade Vrettakos’ rehabilitation had been ongoing and was well advanced, he said.
“In my view, your rehabilitative prospects are very good,” he said.
“In addition, I accept that you have re-ordered your life and that since the police became involved you have been living with the anxiety of not knowing whether you would be the subject of an immediate term of imprisonment.”
Vrettakos now works for a debt collection agency. A reference said he was highly disciplined and ethical, and “quite a different fellow” than before.
(Edited by Vaibhav Pawar and Praveen Pramod Tewari)
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