A crooked accounts manager stole nearly a quarter of a million pounds from Leicestershire-based Dunelm home furnishing company and blew the lot on gambling.
Thomas Eaton systematically swindled his employers over four years to fund his addiction – and also splurged away his house deposit and wedding savings on lost bets.
He finally hit “rock bottom” when he finally lost the family’s weekly shopping money on betting and owned up at work.
The 34-year-old, of North View Close, Asfordby Valley, near Melton, has now admitted fraudulently obtaining £248,354 from Dunelm between January 2015 and January 2019 at Leicester Crown Court.
Tony Stanford, prosecuting, said Eaton worked for Dunelm since 2010 and was promoted from a purchase ledger clerk to a supervisor in 2014.
He was responsible for a team of three – dealing with invoices, expenses and processing company credit cards, but lost his job when he finally confessed.
Dunelm also incurred £100,000 of additional costs investigating the fraud.
Two gaming companies voluntarily refunded £55,424 of the money to Dunelm and a further £36,000 was “in the pipeline,” although other betting firms refused to pay anything back.
Recorder Adrian Reynolds said Eaton syphoned a “massive” amount of cash into his own bank account.
He added: “It touches on an important public issue about the role of companies that encourage people to gamble.
“As it happens I saw the Panorama television programme, referred to in several of your references, about how someone addicted to gambling was being harassed and given quite disgusting inducements to continue their addiction.
“As revolted as I am by that, along with the vast majority of people in this country, this case is about what you have done – not what they have done.
“What brought it home to you in the end was when you’d spent the last part of your family’s weekly food bill in trying to fund your addiction.
“It’s greatly to your credit you brought this to light yourself and the efforts you’ve made to conquer your addiction.
“The remedy was in your hands all this time, sadly we had to wait four years for you to see the light and do the decent thing.”
“There’s still a price to pay because all the honest people in this country who have problems … they don’t resort to offending, especially on this scale.
“I accept your remorse is genuine.”
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Nichola Cafferkey, mitigating, said the defendant’s numerous references of support included Carolyn Harris MP, of the cross-party parliamentary group dealing with harm caused by gambling, Eaton’s current employer, friends, his wife and business people.
She said: “The money didn’t go on fancy shopping trips or holidays.
“Gambling has been likened to an illness.
“He was completely shocked to realise it involved almost £250,000.
“He’s lost the accountancy career he was developing, he almost lost his family and his life was in complete tatters.
“Your Honour has seen a candid letter from the defendant explaining how gambling overtook his life and it spiralled out of control.”
The court heard Eaton, who has no previous convictions, was successfully undergoing therapy and has since married his partner, who is standing by him.
He was also helping other gambling addicts, made YouTube videos and formed a group to support other families caught up in a similar situation.
At an earlier hearing, Eaton admitted abusing his position to fraudulently obtain £116,641 as well as £1,118.
He pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining three company credit cards for himself and admitted using them to make a gain of £18,336.
The defendant further admitted false accounting, by falsifying an accounts book and submitting 20 cash expense claims that he knew were untrue or misleading, amounting to £112,323.
He was jailed for 27 months.