A gambling-addicted van driver has been sent to prison for spending more than £10,000 of his employers' money on scratch cards at garages around the island.
Sussex-born Shaun Michael Weller (35) was employed by Starlight Construction in late 2020.
In each of the company vehicles, there was a Rubis card for the driver to use to buy fuel and other work items for the vehicle - however, Weller used the cards throughout the first half of 2021 to buy unauthorised food, drink and scratch cards for himself.
He was charged with two counts of obtaining goods by false pretences.and one count of possession of a controlled drug.
On Friday, he was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment in the Royal Court. There was no separate penalty for the half a gram of cannabis that was found on his property following his arrest.
Laying out the facts of the case in the Royal Court, Crown Advocate Lauren Hallam, explained that Weller made more than 100 unauthorised transactions on company cards.
Pictured: Weller (35) was sentenced to 21 months' imprisonment on Friday.
In June 2021, Mr Houghton of Starlight Construction noticed that the costs on Weller’s company cards were higher than expected and identified Weller as the person making the numerous unauthorised transactions.
Weller had spent a significant sum of money on scratch cards in particular. Over the course of three months from March to June 2021, he spent over £10,000 on scratch cards, sometimes making multiple transactions in one day.
Advocate Hallam also suggested that, due to the volume of scratch card purchases, it is likely that Weller would have won money on some of the cards.
Weller was arrested in July 2021 and half a gram of cannabis was found when his property was searched. He then confirmed that it was his signature on the cards.
There was dispute over the total amount that Weller stole, with the Crown placing the amount over £12,400. By his own account, he admitted to stealing approximately £10,000 and was sentenced on this premise.
Advocate Hallam said that the difference between the two amounts was negligible enough to not make a difference to the final sentence.
After his arrest, Weller told the police that he had a gambling problem that he “couldn’t stop” and was “going out every night to get scratch cards”.
Advocate Hallam told the Court that Weller had previous criminal convictions for violence and disorderly conduct, but no similar offences for dishonesty. She also acknowledged his guilty plea.
The Crown took into account Weller’s psychological report, but said that his gambling addiction was not mitigation.
Pictured: Weller described his actions as "totally out of character" and apologised to his former employer for “taking advantage of your generosity and trust”.
Advocate Hallam concluded that the breach of trust was significant, particularly as the construction business had to absorb the costs, and therefore warranted a custodial sentence. The Crown proposed a sentence of two years' imprisonment.
Defending, Advocate Francesca Pinel, said Weller had used the company cards fraudulently for a relatively short period of time and had also used them for legitimate purposes too.
She argued that Weller’s gambling addiction “may not be seen as mitigation, but provides context” for his wrongdoings. She also said that there was evidence on his wage slip that Weller was paying Starlight Construction £100 a month for other items purchased on the Rubis cards.
Advocate Pinel acknowledged that a custodial sentence was appropriate, but called for a lesser sentence of 18 months.
She said that Weller had “entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity available to him” and “expressed remorse”. She added that Weller acknowledges the impact that his actions had on his employer, and had apologised to him in person as well as in a letter.
In his letter of remorse which was read out in court, Weller said that what he did was "totally out of character and does not resemble me as a person” and apologised to his former employer for “taking advantage of your generosity and trust”.
Advocate Pinel also noted that Weller had struggled with his mental health, describing his background as “miserable” and suggesting that he used “gambling as an escape”.
Commissioner Sir Anthony Olsen, who was sitting with Jurats Elizabeth Dulake and Andrew Cornish, handed down the sentence. He said that the Crown’s proposed sentence of two years had not adequately accounted for all of the mitigation.
He addressed Weller, saying: “Although we have no choice to send you to prison, we have not given up on you. Your time in the UK shows that you are clearly capable of holding down a job. You seem to be confronting your demons and we applaud you for that.
“We hope that you take advantage of the help available at La Moye and we really hope to never see you before the Court again.”
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