A fraudster who stole almost £130,000 from unsuspecting clients’ accounts to fund his internet gambling habit has been jailed.
Leigh Jones, of Beechwood Road, Saltney, was earning anything between £50,000 and £100,000 a year as an account manager at Syscap in Northwich when he became addicted to gambling and started swindling clients out of tens of thousands of pounds.
Appearing before Chester Crown Court on November 4 the 27-year-old was sentenced to two-years behind bars after pleading guilty to defrauding the Northwich company to fund his addiction.
The court heard how, over a three-year period, Jones transferred £129,614.37 out of the accounts of numerous customers into his own bank account and squandered it online.
He was only caught when another member of staff took over his accounts while he was on a £7,000 family cruise with his then partner and young child around the Caribbean in February this year – he returned to work facing a disciplinary hearing.
Jones, who joined the company in February 2011, had only been working as an accounts manager for a month when he started to gamble and began stealing money from the accounts to feed his habit.
At the time he was earning a net wage of £24,500 a year, with the ability to quadruple his wage in commission. During police interview Jones admitted earning £113,000 in 2011 alone.
Prosecuting, Peter Hussey said during the first 12 months of his employment Jones, who was in charge of two members of staff, was praised as a hard worker and trusted employee.
However his performance began to drop in 2012 and he was given a warning, followed by a formal written warning in August that year.
“He arrived back to work having had his email access blocked. He realised that probably the game was up and went into the office to tell his [manager] he had something to say, but there was a disciplinary hearing that morning,” said Mr Hussey.
At that stage the company had only discovered he had diverted £18,500 into his personal account. Jones sold his £27,000 Mercedes to repay some of the money, but it was soon discovered he had stolen money from more accounts, including £84,000 in a single transaction.
“In his position he had access to customers’ money which he was able to divert to his personal account whenever he needed it,” said Mr Hussey.
“If he had not gone on holiday it would not have come to light for some time if not at all.”
Defending, Robin Boag said Jones had stolen cash from further accounts in an attempt to cover his tracks as the fraud got out of hand. To date he has repaid £42,000 to Syscap.
“He was gambling at home in the evening. Once you start doing it you think the big win will salvage it,” said Mr Boag, who said Jones had been forced to move back in with his parents after his wife ended their relationship when she found out what he had done.
He was praised by the court for seeking help from Gamblers’ Anonymous.
Sentencing Jones to two years behind bars the Honourable Mr Justice Tim Holroyde, a visiting High Court Judge, slated him as ‘greedy’, saying he had breached the trust his customers and managers had placed in him.