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Woman jailed for 'devious' fraud


John Lewis branches were targeted in the fraud

John Lewis branches were targeted in the fraud

John Lewis branches were targeted in the fraud

A fraudster who conned John Lewis out of more than £30,000 by claiming bogus refunds using a "clever" scam has been jailed for 19 months.

Laima Butke, 55, visited branches of the department store all over the UK over a period of more than 18 months, stealing a total of £32,254.

Explaining how she obtained the money, prosecutor Charles Falk told Aylesbury Crown Court: "This is quite a clever fraud.

"The technique is this: she goes into John Lewis, purchases some goods.

"She then returns to the store the next day claiming not to have been given a receipt and obtains a refund on the grounds that her daughter didn't want them because they were the wrong size or something."

The next phase of the scam saw Butke visit another John Lewis branch.

Mr Falk said: "She takes the refund she did get and shoplifts the same items on the receipt and gets another refund using that receipt."

The court heard Butke's activities were carried out in "chunks" between May 2013 and December last year.

She visited branches of the department store in London, Cambridge, Southampton, Leicester, High Wycombe and Kingston Upon Thames.

In the space of just a few weeks at the end of last year she pocketed almost £6,000 by using the tactics on eight occasions.

The fraud was detected by John Lewis investigators who noticed unusual activity on credit cards registered to Butke and she was finally arrested in December.

She pleaded guilty to nine counts of fraud by false representation at a previous hearing.

Sentencing her, Judge Francis Sheridan said: "You are thoroughly dishonest. It hurts decent companies. They (John Lewis) are a decent company. Some might think they are a national institution."

Butke, a housekeeper originally from Lithuania, claims that in fact she carried out the fraud by buying items reduced in the sale and claiming refunds at the full price.

But the judge said:" Your barrister mitigates that this was not sophisticated. If it's not sophisticated then it's more devious."

Butke's barrister Lee Harris said she had not lived a "lavish" lifestyle as a result of her actions, sending money back to Lithuania to her daughter and sick mother.

Butke, of no fixed abode, appeared from prison via video link and wept as she was sentenced.

Butke would mainly use items of clothes to carry out the scam, the court heard, pocketing refunds of several hundred pounds each time.