Belfast Telegraph

Jailed: Shop manager who stole £150k to feed his gambling habit

By Paul Higgins

A shop manager who stole close to £150,000 to fund a gambling addiction has been jailed for 10 months.

Having heard that 28-year-old Giles McAllen bet the large majority of the stolen cash at Tommy French bookmakers, a judge said he found it "astonishing these were all cash transactions", including bets totalling more than £100,000 being placed in a single day.

"One of the employees in the shop in question said he knew that the defendant worked in the petrol station, so how on Earth did anyone from that company believe that this man had access to large sums of cash?" Craigavon Crown Court Judge Patrick Lynch QC asked.

Prosecution lawyer Joseph Murphy suggested that "perhaps they were turning a blind eye", and Judge Lynch said while he had no powers to do anything about the bookmakers, "it's a matter that could be referred to the council when their licence is up for renewal".

Earlier Mr Murphy outlined how McAllen had been the manager of a Centra store in Moira from June 2015, and as such "the responsibility for handling cash was the defendant's".

He described how there were two safes in the shop, one for day to day cash for the tills, and the other for the takings, which needed two keys - McAllen's, and one held by G4S to be used when making secure collections.

That second key, however, had been left at the shop.

Ownership of the business was transferred, and on July 23 last year an operations manager "noticed an anomaly of £600", said Mr Murphy, but he added that further investigations revealed no money had been lodged that month at all, and that according to sale figures "about £144,000 was unaccounted for".

McAllen was spoken to and he claimed the missing cash was in the second safe but that he had forgotten his key.

"He said he had left his key at home and offered excuses as to why he couldn't get it but that he would bring it the next day and that there was nothing to worry about," said the lawyer.

Come the next day, McAllen made more excuses why he couldn't come to the shop, and when the second safe was eventually opened, it was devoid of any cash.

Eventually, McAllen's father told managers "all of the money had gone to the bookies".

Arrested and interviewed, McAllen, from Deramore Park in Magherafelt, "made full and frank admissions" about stealing the cash, which he used to place bets of anywhere between £100 to £4,000.

He pleaded guilty at a later stage to a single count of the theft of £149,480 from his employers at the shop in Moira on dates between April 1 and July 29 last year.

Mr Murphy told the court that both the staff and owner at Tommy French bookmakers were spoken to and that betting slips revealed how a massive £629,846 had gone through the betting shop between stakes and wins, including stakes of more than £100,000 in a single day.

He added that when McAllen kept betting "he simply loses that money".

Defence barrister Michael Tierney said it was clear that McAllen is "genuinely remorseful and entirely ashamed" of his actions which were always going to be uncovered given that there was no sophistication to the thefts.

"There is no question that it's a serious case and an example of someone who gets caught in a vicious circle and who is dragged into the depths of despair as he keeps taking money to try to claw his way back," said the lawyer.

He conceded that the breach of trust aspect of the case is an aggravating factor but highlighted that other similar factors were absent such as the lack of sophistication, and that the prosecution agreed McAllen did not come into possession of the second key "in a nefarious way".

Jailing McAllen for 10 months and ordering him to spend the same period on supervised licence, Judge Lynch said it was a "shame that you should have wasted your career".

Expressing his "astonishment" at the huge amount of large bets being made at a single bookmakers, the judge added: "Whatever the shortcomings of the bookmakers, at the end of the day the responsibility for the criminality lies at your hands and no one else's."

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