Ex-Commonwealth Bank Manager Stole Money to Gamble, Jailed for Fraud

  • Problem gambler stole close to $500,000 from Commonwealth Bank
  • Used internal payments dispute system to disguise transactions and obtain funds
  • Made large cash withdrawals to gamble; claimed purchase refunds to personal bank account
bank fraud document
A former Commonwealth Bank manager from Australia stole almost $500,000 from his workplace to fund his gambling habit. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Gambling problem revealed

A former Commonwealth Bank manager from Sydney, Australia is now serving jail time after using his position to fuel his gambling problem. Lee Zaragoza stole close to $500,000 from the bank before his fraudulent behavior caught up with him.

The senior manager had access to internal accounts which he used for himself. He was sentenced to two years in jail with non-parole of 14 months for his actions.

Lee Zaragoza stole close to $500,000 from the bank

The former bank manager pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception last month.

Several years of fraud

Zaragoza had reportedly been manipulating the bank via his managerial role since 2013, using the internal payment dispute system for his own gain. He would falsify spreadsheets as well as destroy records of the bank.

The former bank manager would purchase retail items via an internal account, which he also used to claim refunds to his personal bank account. In total, he stole $463,260 from the Commonwealth Bank.

Zaragoza used some of the money to buy electronics and an Infiniti car. He also made large cash withdrawals at a Dooley’s and Ingleburn RSL club, which he then used to gamble.

Disguising payments

Zaragoza worked in the payment operations department of the bank. He was in charge of investigating and reimbursing customers when transactions were flagged or disputed on the basis of fraudulent issues or due to being incorrect.

In over 90 instances, he disguised payments and sent them to his personal accounts. Funds were sent to the National Australia Bank or to accounts in St George. Zaragoza disguised the payments by labeling them with descriptions such as STG DISP TRAN and NAB DISP TRAN.

he disguised payments and sent them to his personal accounts

Zaragoza also overpaid for products at retailers as a way to direct more money into his pockets. After paying an excess amount, he would speak with the retailer and have the refund sent to his own account.

Range Rover ruin

Zaragoza’s fraudulent activity was not discovered until he decided to purchase a Range Rover. It was at this point that the bank decided to start an internal investigation into his lavish lifestyle.

While the Range Rover had triggered the investigation, police did not find that it had been purchased with any stolen funds.

Investigators conducted a formal interview with Zaragoza at the bank between. The bank manager confessed he had stolen the money, adding that

I would probably admit it’s for a gambling addiction.”

A second perpetrator

Along with Zaragoza, a second individual and fellow team member was also stealing from the bank. Kathy Ung was caught transferring funds to her personal account from 2015 until 2016. She allegedly stole around $64,000.

Zaragoza actually discovered Ung’s fraudulent practices in 2017. He encouraged her to pay back the money and did not report her to the bank. She allegedly paid back the money in full.

Ung was sentenced to two years of prison to be served with intensive correction in the community. Both individuals have since been fired from the bank.