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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham showroom manager defrauded his employers

A 39-year-old Cheltenham showroom manager defrauded his employers out of more than £1,500 after he was told he was being made redundant, a court heard on Monday (February 20).

Robert Bourne, of Hewlett Road, Cheltenham, had been employed by plumbing and heating firm Wolseley UK for almost three years when he was given a month's redundancy notice on August 24, 2020, Cheltenham Magistrates were told.

Feeling aggrieved that he would be getting only two years redundancy money because his employment was a month short of three years he began paying the proceeds of customer refunds into his own bank account, the prosecution said.

Prosecutor Sue Gethin told the court: "The branch manager was made aware that stock was going missing when a customer came to pick an item up but it was not in stock - although the records showed it should have been because it had been returned and a refund made.

"The company then searched for more refunds where there had been a change of bank details. Five separate transactions were discovered to have taken place. The first was on August 24, for £247.37, which was a refund to Bourne's debit card.

"The second payment was made on August 27, for £283.20, the third on September 9, £262.80, the fourth on September 16 to the value of £346.87 and £283.20 was transferred on September 23.

"Bourne also carried out a cash refund of £62 on September 8 and on September 16 he made a failed attempt to refund £196.76 to his own debit card. The total Bourne defrauded from the company amounts to £1,538.80."

Bourne told police he had conducted the refund transactions through his own bank card before he left his employment.

He stated that he couldn't remember the specific amounts, but did have access to a specialised card reader which he falsified to his own end.

He explained to the police that during the summer of 2020 he was assured by his management that his job was safe and that he was being considered for an enhanced role within the company as the branch was being pushed into a different direction.

Bourne stated that a week later that he was called into the manager's office and told that the expansion was not happening and that he was being let go.

Bourne said he was 'put out' by this as he had invested a lot of time and effort into his job and wanted to leave the company with something as he knew his redundancy wouldn't amount to much.

He admitted to police that he acted irrationally and he realised that what he did was not the way to go about it. But that was how he had justified it to himself, he said.

He explained that he wanted to get a car so he could get a new job after realising that his redundancy payment would not cover this expense.

The prosecutor added: "When the company challenged him over his fraudulent transactions, Bourne fully admitted his offending and did not try to hide away from it. He said he knew what he did would come back to haunt him at some point."

District Judge Nicholas Wattam interjected: "Bourne was always going to get caught. This was a series of un-sophisticated fraudulent transactions and a breach of trust."

Bourne, who was not legally represented, told the court: "I've put my hands up to my offending. Ultimately, I knew it would eventually come back to haunt me. Initially I just wanted to better my situation and find new employment sooner.

"I was employed for two years and 11 months. The company didn't recognise that I had almost worked another year and didn't receive any extra in my redundancy payment for this time period."

Judge Wattam commented: "So you thought you'd help yourself to extra money that belonged to the company?"

Bourne replied: "I do feel bad about the situation I left the company in. Because I had left I wasn't privy to the fallout that my actions had on Wolseley UK."

Bourne pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation between August 8 and September 23, 2020 by altering invoice receipts to his own bank card intending to make a financial gain of £1,538.80.

Judge Wattam sentenced Bourne to a 12-month community order which includes 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days and added: "You abused your position of trust in August 2020 and committed fraud against your employer at the time.

"I take a dim view of this and I read in your pre-sentence report that you haven't show much insight about the impact of what you did. This offence is serious."

The judge ordered that Bourne pay back the £1,538.80 as compensation to the company and prosecution costs of £85 and a mandatory surcharge of £95.

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