Gambling addict stole £18,000 from charity to fund habit

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A store manager from Ossett stole £18,000 which had been donated to charity and frittered it away because of his gambling addiction, a court heard.

Luke Swindon also activated scratch cards and kept £6,000 cash for himself without putting them on sale to the public while in charge of the Co-op branch in Wellington Street, Leeds.

Kathryn Stuckey prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court his dishonesty only came to light when his head office decided to make a charity award and his figures could not be reconciled.

Swindon later told a probation officer he had been gambling since the age of 14 when he began by spending his pocket money on fruit machines.

He estimated since he became addicted he had spent between £150,000 to £200,000 in casinos on poker, roulette and Blackjack.

Miss Stuckey said in his position at the Co-op store between January last year and June this year he was meant to record the money donated into the charity box but realised if he recorded a negative into the account he could take it for himself from the safe.

He said he had started taking small amounts but gradually the money increased. He also activated scratch cards but did not put them in the dispenser for public sale keeping awards for himself.

When he was interviewed he said he knew what he was doing was wrong but could not stop himself. He was initially suspended but later handed in his resignation expressing his remorse.

He told a probation officer he felt sick stealing the charity money but kept hoping a big win would enable him to pay the money back.

The court heard he had since sought help from his GP for his gambling addiction and depression and had approached casinos in Leeds, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Nottingham and Bradford to bar him from their premises.

He was also attending Gamblers Anonymous, had signed up for a national addiction programme and has got work as a car salesman.

Sean Smith representing him said Swindon had already offered to repay £3,000 from savings and was willing to pay more from his commission sales if the court felt able to go along with the probation officer’s recommendation of a suspended sentence.

Swinden, 27 of Dewsbury Road, Ossett admitted fraud by false representation.

Jailing him for 14 months, Judge Rodney Jameson QC said he accepted Swindon had been frank with his employers and the police about his dishonesty but he had not chosen to stop himself prior to the discrepancies being discovered.

“I am told you have been gambling since you were 14, and in spite of knowing you suffered from this addiction you nevertheless put yourself in a position where you were entrusted with very substantial sums of money.”