Caravan salesman who stole thousands escapes prison

Court news.
Court news.

A caravan salesman who stole thousands of pounds from his employer to pay his gambling debts on Thursday escaped an immediate prison sentence because he case took three years to get to court.

Robert O’Connell pocketed cash payments from customers of Coastfields Leisure for over two years before he was caught out when a stocktake revealed discrepancies.

Justin Wigoder, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court “He was a sales manager for Coastfields Leisure.

“He stole on a number of different occasions. There seem to be something like 20 different fraudulent transactions.

“These came to light early in 2011 when there was a stocktake and a number of discrepancies were discovered. In particular three caravans shown to be on the books could not be found nor could they find any trace of their disposal.”

The firm carried out some inquiries of their own before calling in police.

Mr Wigoder said that evidence was found of customers making cash payments but no record of the money being received by the company.

O’Connell pocketed the money and produced false invoices to show the caravans had been sold at a lower price.

And on at least one occasion he sold a caravan traded-in as part exchange and kept the cash.

Mr Wigoder said that O’Connell made a full confession to police following his arrest in April 2011 but was not charged for a further two and a half years.

He said part of the delay was because there was originally a suspicion that O’Connell had stolen more money than he admitted to taking and police were involved in a lengthy investigation contacting customers all over the East of England.

O’Connell, 35, of Elizabeth Drive, Chapel St Leonards, Lincs, admitted theft of up to £50,000 from his employer between April 2008 and December 2010. He was given a 14 month jail sentence suspended for 18 months with supervision and 200 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Sean Morris told him “The delay is unacceptable. You are only getting this sentence suspended because this case is antique now.”

Nicholas Wrack, defending, said “He became addicted to gambling.

“He began dipping into the money to try to meet his debts with every intention initially of paying it back.

“Now when he looks back he cannot believe what he did.

“At the time of his arrest he had personal debts of £25,000 which he owed to various people.

“He is transformed. He no longer gambles. The last bet he placed was in May 2011.”

Mr Wrack said that O’Connell lost his job over the thefts but has since found new employment in sales and has reduced his debts to £6,000.

He added that O’Connell has suffered from having the threat of jail hanging over his head for the three years since he was arrested.