Bank manager jailed for €3.4m 'ponzi scheme' theft

A Bank of Ireland manager who stole over €3m from his employers in a “ponzi scheme” has been jailed for four and a half years at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court.

William Freeland (aged 57) was employed as a business manager in the Bray Branch when he began setting up lending accounts in fake names and taking money from them. He would then open up more accounts to get money to repay the loans taken from previous ones.

He stole a total of €3.38m, of which he repaid €2.53m using money he took from later accounts. The scam went on for five years before Freeland was caught and dismissed.

Nearly €850,000 remains outstanding including €320,000 in interest and charges. Freeland claims he spent €209,000, or 6% of the total amount, on himself. He went on several family holidays and golf trips and bought a car.

He told gardaí the money went on “bits and pieces” and that he “just couldn’t say no to himself”. The court heard he wasn’t a gambler and has no significant assets to show for his theft.

When he was fired and arrested he told investigators he was glad he was caught. For six months after his dismissal he did not tell his wife and children about it and sat in his car all day while they thought he was at work.

Judge Martin Nolan noted he had operated a sort of “ponzi scheme” and that once Freeland had started he couldn’t stop. The judge said he was a good man and an asset to his community where he was heavily involved in the local soccer club Leicester Celtic.

He also noted his remorse and co-operation into the investigation which avoided the need for a complex and lengthy trial. However he said because the crime was “great” and carried out with “malice aforethought”, a jail sentence must be imposed.

Judge Nolan rejected an offer by the defence counsel to use money inherited by Freeland’s wife to partially compensate the bank. The judge said he didn’t think it was appropriate to take his wife’s money and give it to the bank.

Freeland of Ardmore Lawn, Bray, Co. Wicklow pleaded guilty to 10 sample counts of theft and false accounting between September 2004 and April 2009 at the Bray and Kill o'the Grange Bank of Ireland branches.

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