Belfast Telegraph

Gambling jewellery shop boss stole £20k from Forestside outlet

By Paul Higgins

An assistant manager in a jewellery shop who swindled more than £20,000 to feed his gambling addiction has walked free from court with a 16-month suspended jail term.

Freeing 27-year-old Christopher Jones, Downpatrick Crown Court Judge Geoffrey Millar QC warned him that if he reoffended in the next three years, he would go to jail.

The judge said he hoped, however, that the sentence "will serve as an incentive and deterrent" to keep Jones away from gambling.

Speaking outside the court, the Belfast man said his family had no idea he was before the court or had been facing the prospect of going to jail.

Jones, from Great Northern Street, said he was filled with regret for what he had done.

"I wouldn't wish this on anyone – I don't know what I'm going to do now. I guess all I can do is try my best to pay the money back," he added.

He had earlier pleaded guilty to 15 offences of fraud by abuse of the position he held with Goldsmith Jewellers on dates between August 14, 2012 and February 26, 2013 last year with one further similar charge not proceeded with.

The court heard that in total, Jones stole £20,280 but that since his offences were uncovered he has paid some money back, leaving £17,885 outstanding.

Jones had been working as assistant manager at the jewellery outlet at the Forestside shopping centre for three years when senior management were alerted to potential frauds in relation to refunds.

Prosecuting lawyer Laura Ievers said an internal audit revealed that "fraudulent transactions" were being paid to Jones' credit card and described how using his position of trust and authority, Jones used sale receipts to "fictitiously refund the monies."

Knowing that would affect the stock list as no item had in fact been returned, Jones used his managerial swipe card to then change the stock list. However, an internal audit uncovered the fraud while banking documents found during search of Jones' home showed the 16 fraudulent transactions.

When arrested and interviewed, Jones made full and frank admissions to what he had done, claiming that he used the money to repay high interest gambling debts and to keep gambling.

Solicitor advocate Paul Farrell outlined how Jones first became ensnared in a deep gambling addiction when he was as university in Glasgow.

The lawyer revealed that Jones' parents had bailed him out of gambling debts once before and they had taken his bank cards and cheque book.

Their parental supervision fell down however when Jones began using his Visa credit card, the only card his parents did not get.

Judge Millar said while the case represented a "clear breach of trust" Jones had shown clear remorse, had lost his job and would likely find it difficult to find long-term employment in the future given the convictions.

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