Bank could pursue casino - Friday 12th of August 2005

BENDIGO Bank could launch legal action against Crown casino to recoup $5 million allegedly gambled by one of the banks employees.

The Herald Sun yesterday revealed a young mother was about to be charged with stealing millions from the bank before blowing her stash at the casino.

It is the third major theft from Bendigo Bank in recent years.

In 2001 a Pyramid Hill womans $1.1 million theft was uncovered, while in 2003 a Ballarat woman was charged with stealing more than $617,000.

Both women had worked at Bendigo Bank agencies and had gambled away most of the money.

The latest theft could see the bank and its insurer take action against Crown for allegedly allowing the woman to lose millions on poker machines.

"We will have to look at the circumstances around the alleged offences, look at her behaviour and interaction with Crown casino and make a decision whether we take action against Crown or not," Bendigo Bank spokesman Owen Davies said.

"What we are questioning is how does a suburban mum become a VIP member of Crown casino and allegedly put a large amount of money through a gambling establishment."

The woman, in her 30s, was a loans manager at a suburban branch of the Bendigo Bank.

At the same time she was living a double life as a VIP Slots member, being feted with free rooms, limousine transport and free tickets while turning over millions in the casinos high stakes poker machines.

She is believed to have turned over more than $20 million at the casino in less than two years, mainly on pokies.

Any bank bid to seek damages from Crown would follow a recently settled civil action between the Law Institute of Victoria and Crown.

That writ, involving solicitor Gabriel Werden, was believed to have been the first of its kind in Australia and involved money allegedly stolen from a lawyers trust account.

The statement of claim named four clients of Gabriel Werden and said the institutes professional standards association was entitled to recover $635,940 the clients had paid into his trust account.

Crown is also being sued by five financial victims of disgraced former Geelong mayor Frank De Stefano.

Crown, along with St George Bank, is accused of knowingly cashing stolen cheques used by De Stefano to gamble away more than $11 million.

The Supreme Court writ alleges that they aided De Stefano by cashing cheques drawn from his clients trust accounts between 1993 and 2000.

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