It’s nothing new to hear about individuals stealing money in order to spend it on gambling. However, it’s rare that the theft ever gets this big. A 39-year-old German bank worker has been accused of stealing over €8 million ($10.6 million) from customers, which he then spent at casinos over the course of several years.
Stole Undetected for Years from Customers
According to the charges, the man works in Buxtehude, a Northern Germany town that is a suburb of Hamburg. Over the course of more than three years – spanning between 2007 and 2010 – the man stole money from customers’ accounts no fewer than 156 times. He also directly took money that had been given to him by customers to invest. According to prosecutors speaking in Stade District Court, the man even faked customer signatures on several occasions in order to gain access to their money.
The amounts stolen varied greatly from client to client. At some times, he stole only a few hundred euros; in the most dramatic cases, several hundred thousand euros were taken out of accounts at once.
In total, €8.4 million ($11.1 million) was taken out of customer accounts over the years. That money was then largely spent at a local casino in Hamburg.
According to prosecutors, the unnamed man had already paid back €4.5 million ($6 million), though the rest of the money is still outstanding.
One of the biggest mysteries in the case is exactly how the banker managed to steal such large sums of money for years without being detected. According to reports, many of the man’s former co-workers will be called as witnesses in an attempt to explain this, as well as clarify just how the schemes worked.
“Gambling Addict” Defense
That said, prosecutors are unlikely to face much resistance when it comes to the actual facts of the case. Instead, lawyers for the defense are expected to argue that the defendant was a gambling addict, which would reduce his criminal culpability.
This would not be an unusual defense in a case such as this one. According to the American Psychiatric Association, acts such as these are considered one of the key signs of problem gambling. In particular, stealing funds would fit into two of the symptoms often used to diagnose a gambling problem, including “illegal acts” and risking a significant relationship, which includes the potential loss of a job.
While gambling problems rarely get to the point of stealing millions, gambling-related theft has led to several high-profile cases worldwide. In recent weeks, there have been stories about an Australian man who stole $200,000 from his child’s kindergarten association before being caught. Earlier this year, a boss at a Barclays Bank in England stole £127,000 ($196,000) to pay back her gambling debts. And a Tampa, Florida woman was convicted earlier this year of gambling away her in-laws’ entire half-million dollar retirement fund before being caught and charged. She is now serving a five-year sentence for her crimes.
The defendant in this case is facing several charges, including fraud, breach of trust, and falsification of documents. If he is found guilty, he could face several years in prison. His trial is expected to continue latest this month, with a verdict to be handed down sometime next month.