A POST Office worker with mounting debts gave in to temptation and stole £10,000 from the vault.
Richard Stewart Carradine, 24, took two pouches, each containing £5,000, from the Post Office Sorting Office in Station Road, Chester.
The money was part of a £100,000 consignment destined for the National Westminster Bank in Hoole, Chester.
The theft was soon detected and Carradine admitted the offence when he appeared at Chester Crown Court. He was jailed for four months.
Prosecutor Anna Price said Carradine had only been working at the Sorting Office for a few weeks when, on July 11, the Royal Mail received a consignment of money.
'It was £630,000 sent from the NatWest cash centre in Salford.
'The money was divided into 26 pouches, each containing about £25,000 and all with tamper-proof seals.
'Of this, £100,000 was due to be delivered by the Royal Mail to the NatWest branch in Hoole. It went to the Sorting Office and was put in the vault.
'Carradine was on duty that evening and later on, it was found that £10,000 was missing,' added Mrs Price.
Royal Mail investigators and Chester police went to Carradine's home in Mannings Lane South, Hoole, Chester.
'They asked where the money was and he pointed to a box containing £6,500.
He said he'd spent the rest.
'Carradine said he had come across an unsealed bag, and had removed two pouches each containing £5,000.
'He added he was heavily in debt at the time,' said Mrs Price.
Defending, Andrew Jebb said Carradine used some of the money to pay off his debts, as well as buying books, electrical items and a gym membership.
'His sister has since put £3,000 in a bank account for him, and he can, and will, write a cheque now to make up the remainder of the money.'
Mr Jebb added: 'For some time Carradine had been living beyond his means and had substantial credit card debts and bank loans.
'Around that time a four-year relationship broke up and he sought solace in buying these items for himself to deal with the loneliness.
'He had been employed by an agency at the Sorting Office just a few weeks before this offence. It was an unsophisticated crime.'
He said Carradine, who had no previous convictions, had surprised friends and family by committing this offence.
Judge Stephen Clarke ordered Carradine to pay back the £3,500 immediately.
'There was a trust placed in you and you breached it, which is so serious only custody is justified,' the judge added.