Teller ?must have erred

By MEGAN KINNINMENT

AN ERROR made by a junior bank teller was the possible cause of a suspicious bank transaction, accused fraudster Graham Higgins told the Lismore District Court yesterday.

The former manager of Tweed City Commonwealth Bank at South Tweed Heads is accused of fraudulently disposing of a cheque for nearly $80,000 entrusted to him by an elderly bank customer in 2001.

Higgins yesterday testified that Doreen Loder, now deceased, had telephoned him on October 2, 2001, asking him to collect a $78,303 cheque to be invested in a term deposit account.

After picking up the cheque and handing Mrs Loder an interim receipt for a term deposit, Higgins told the court his elderly customer had changed her mind the next morning.

On that day, October 3, 2001, Higgins claimed a mystery messenger had arrived at the Tweed City Commonwealth Bank branch with a handwritten note instructing Higgins to instead divide Mrs Loder's money into eight bank cheques of $8600 each and over $9000 in cash.

All of those eight bank cheques were later cashed under Higgins' authority, including one made payable to a B

Hickey.

A few minutes after the B Hickey cheque was cashed, a new cheque was purchased in B Hickey's name for $8000 ? made payable to Higgins' stockbroking firm, Dicksons.

Higgins took to the witness stand yesterday and told the court that it must have been an error by a junior teller that resulted in the bank cheque for Higgins' stockbroking firm being issued under B Hickey's name.

"The issuing officer was Ann Kirkman and her error rate was pretty high at the time," Higgins said.

He also told the court 2001 had been a "horrendous year" as the Tweed City Commonwealth Bank branch was merged with the Kingscliff branch and the Tweed State Colonial Bank branch.

"I had several staff resign because they couldn't cope and I was constantly counselling some staff to retain them," Higgins told the court.

Higgins told the court he had taken stress leave in November 2001, the month after being handed the $78,303 cheque by Doreen Loder.



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