Gambling IOU bank thief jailed - Sunday 4th of December 2005

A former financial consultant who stole £10m to feed his gambling habit, has been jailed for 12 years for "breaches of trust of the grossest order".

Graham Price, 58, of Llansamlet stole the millions from investors and the Halifax Bank for whom he was an agent.

His barrister said: "He blames absolutely nobody, save himself."

Sentencing him at Swansea Crown Court, Judge John Diehl said: "Any words of mine are almost bound to be inadequate to reflect the extent of your deceit."

He added: "In my view, these were breaches of trust of the grossest order."

He said that individual investors lost homes, pension nest eggs and inheritances to the bogus land scheme which had devastated their lives and left many in difficulty.

As a result, many had been left with higher mortgages, been forced to sell their homes while others were forced to return to work rather than retire.

Graham Price breached the trust of his friends, colleagues and neighbours, stealing from them for his own greed

Jennifer Ellis of Graham Price Victims Support Group

The court heard how Price - who had left an IOU for £7m inside a safe - had stolen money from 84 mainly elderly private investors during a four-year fraud.

Soon after he was arrested, Price told police he believed he could recoup the money with just one more week gambling on horses.

It later emerged that he had spent even more on racing tipsters than was originally thought and it was now calculated that the amount was £1.7m, not the £1m originally thought.

Peter Douglas-Jones, defending, told the court on Monday, how Price had started making small bets when he was aged about 19.

A former process operator at a chemicals works, he took a severance payment and began to work as a financial adviser from home.

But it was not until 2001, that his gambling took a turn for the worse - moving up several gears after he subscribed to the Racing Post.

As well as gambling, the court heard that Price also owned or jointly owned 13 racehorses, including one called Cart Diamond, on which he spent £69,000.

He had three betting accounts, including an online account and telephone account, but it was unclear how much he had spent on these.

He asks me to put all the emphasis I can on his regret, his worthlessness knowing the pain that he has caused

Peter Douglas-Jones, defending

It was during an unannounced audit last November that an IOU for £7m was left in the safe of the Gowerton Branch Agency which he ran, near Swansea.

The court heard that he had successfully concealed his gambling from his wife although she had noticed changes in his behaviour.

Stolen money was lodged with family members, which Price explained away saying he was doing well in betting.

"He said his wife and son were innocent of any wrongdoing," Mr Douglas-Jones told the hearing.

Price admitted 43 charges of theft and asked for 263 offences relating to a £10m scam to be taken into account.

Jennifer Ellis read a statement on behalf of the victims outside court

Mr Douglas-Jones asked for his early guilty pleas to be taken into account and said his client showed "deep remorse".

"He asks me to put all the emphasis I can on his regret, his worthlessness knowing the pain that he has caused," he added.

He said one of the reasons his client left the IOU for £7m in a safe at the Halifax banks agency office in Gowerton near Swansea, was to exonerate his staff.

Fifty of the 84 investors affected were in court for the sentencing.

Jennifer Ellis of the Graham Price Victims Support Group, read out a statement on the steps of the court.

"The members of the Graham Price Victims Support Group would like to express their satisfaction at todays sentencing," she said.

"Graham Price breached the trust of his friends, colleagues and neighbours, stealing from them for his own greed.

"It is right and proper that Graham Price has been duly punished for what he did to so many people. However, today does not mark the end of our ordeal."

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