Office workers swindled £100,000

TWO young office workers for insurance giants AXA have been jailed for swindling around £100,000 through a computer loophole at the firm.Alexander Claridge spent proceeds on a "raging" cocaine addiction, a holiday in the Maldives and "an expensive" girlfriend.

TWO young office workers for insurance giants AXA have been jailed for swindling around £100,000 through a computer loophole at the firm.

Alexander Claridge spent proceeds on a "raging" cocaine addiction, a holiday in the Maldives and "an expensive" girlfriend.

Niall Hayden is said to have led a more reserved lifestyle spending his stolen cash on day-to-day expenses.

Claridge, 28, pleaded guilty to six offences of theft totalling £15,832 and asked for 61 similar offences totalling £69,596 to be taken into consideration.

Hayden, 23, pleaded guilty to six offences of false accounting amounting to £36,785.

Stephen Franklyn prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said both men had worked at AXA for some time when a "loophole" in the computer was discovered.

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In September 2000 Claridge of Norwich Road, Ipswich discovered he could overwrite customers bank details and replace them with his own.

On September 7 he credited his own bank account with £95. His offending then escalated.

Hayden, of Broodmere Road, Ipswich made the same discovery in February 2001 and began making electronic money transfers from AXA's funds to his own bank account.

Both men were described as "polite and well educated" men who were of previous good character.

The court heard that Claridge had suffered some traumatic events as a child including the suicide of his father.

Jude Durr, for Claridge said his client was almost "relieved" when AXA discovered his fraud as the funds to aid his cocaine habit dried up overnight and his addiction ended.

Mr Durr said Claridge had bought expensive gifts for his girlfriend to make him "appear more attractive".

Judge John Devaux said the defendants had not used any sophisticated methods to cover their tracks and had stolen from a large company rather than from vulnerable individuals.

"However I'm not saying company's the size of AXA are fair game," he added.

Claridge was jailed for two years and Hayden was jailed for 15 months. They were told they would serve about half their sentence in prison.

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