A CASHIER at a Basingstoke bank stole money from the accounts of elderly customers in a bid to “keep up” with the wealth of his friends.

Sam Holloway stole £7,500 from seven customers in March and April last year when he worked at the Lloyds branch, in Festival Place.

The 19-year-old entered inflated withdrawal figures into the bank’s computer system after speaking with the victims, before taking cash for himself from the till.

Holloway, of Suffolk Road, Andover, was in the dock for sentence, having pleaded guilty to eight counts of theft.

Michael Williams, prosecuting, said: “The offending came to light after customers reported money had been taken from their accounts without their knowledge.

“The first incident took place on March 4 last year and involved a customer called Mr Appleton. He had gone in to withdraw £100 but he later discovered that £1,100 had been withdrawn electronically.”

The court heard Mr Appleton, whose first name was not given in court, had learning difficulties, and was targeted again by Holloway on March 30.

Mr Williams said the same method was used to take cash from the accounts of the other victims, who were described in court as elderly.

The court heard an internal investigation was carried out by the bank before Holloway was dismissed, and the information was passed on to the police. Any customers who lost out were reimbursed by the bank.

Mr Williams added: “In interview, he said that with the money he was earning, he was unable to keep up with his friends with what they were doing, and was unable to go out.”

But Lisa Stewart, defending, said the offending was a “cry for help” following the suicide of a close friend and the death of two of his grandparents.

Holloway, who wept during the Winchester Crown Court hearing, now works for his father’s carpentry business, Miss Stewart said.

Recorder Brian Lett told Holloway it was a “serious series of crimes” and that he had escaped an immediate custodial sentence “by a whisker”.

He sentenced Holloway to 12 months custody suspended for two years, with 180 hours unpaid work. He also ordered him to pay £7,000 compensation to the bank and £450 costs.