A TEAM leader at a Newbury superstore deceived unwitting colleagues in a scam involving more than £10,000.
Cunning James Parsons even dragged his innocent fiancée into his scheme, leading to her arrest, Reading magistrates heard.
The 29-year-old operated his elaborate swindle, leaving envelopes stuffed with cash in secret hiding places, from Wickes home improvement and DIY superstore in Canal View Road.
Matthew Gauntlett, prosecuting last Thursday, revealed that Mr Parsons’ fall from grace as a trusted staff role model was down to an addiction to online gambling and cocaine.
He said Mr Parsons, of Martingale Chase, Newbury, went undetected for at least three months as he secretly lined his pockets.
Mr Gauntlett added: “The defendant was employed as team leader and his fiancée was a staff assistant.
“Both were arrested after an internal investigation uncovered a number of fraudulent transactions.
“It seems that his wages were not sufficient to fund his lifestyle.”
The court heard Mr Parsons would invent fake customers who were demanding refunds on their goods.
He then used his knowledge of store procedure to hide the cash, sometimes hundreds of pounds at a time, stuffed into an envelope concealed in places where his subordinates would not stumble across it.
Mr Gauntlett said that, as his greed grew, Mr Parsons began to abuse his position of authority as team leader to dupe colleagues into aiding him.
He added: “He would get them to complete refund forms, asking them to leave the refund cash to be collected by the customer later.
“Unknown to them he was pocketing the cash himself.
“That is how his fiancée became involved. As a staff member, she was also oblivious to the fact that these requests involved fictitious customers and no tangible goods.”
Eventually the scam was discovered; Mr Parsons and his fiancée were arrested and his home was searched.
There, police found power tools and other goods worth hundreds of pounds which Mr Parsons had stolen from his employers, the court heard.
Mr Gauntlett said Mr Parsons’ fiancée was subsequently cleared of all wrong-doing and added: “It appears the defendant had a desperate need for money due to a cocaine addiction, an online gambling habit and debts to loan companies.
“White powder was found at his home which resulted in a police caution for possession of drugs.”
A smartly-dressed Mr Parsons admitted stealing cash and goods from Wickes between August 1 and November 18 last year.
He also has previous convictions for dishonesty and for drugs offences, magistrates were told.
Mr Gauntlett suggested the offences were so serious that the magistrates’ powers of up to six months’ imprisonment were insufficient and that the sentencing should be done by a judge sitting at Reading Crown Court.
Mike Davis, defending, said his client would dispute the total owed.
However, he conceded: “I’ve told him that, one way or another, this is probably going to end up in crown court.
“Given that this was a systematic procedure over a prolonged period of time involving an abuse of trust and position, that remains my opinion and I won’t seek to argue against it.”
After confering, magistrates ruled that their own powers of punishment were insufficient.
Mr Parsons was committed for sentence, on conditional bail, to Reading Crown Court for sentencing at a date to be fixed.