A judge described the behaviour of some betting companies as ‘revolting’ as he sentenced a gambling addict to more than two years in jail for stealing nearly £250,000 from his employers to feed his addiction.
Former Dunelm employee Thomas Eaton, 34, of Melton Mowbray, admitted forging an account book, submitting bogus expense claims worth £112,323 and fraudulently obtaining three company credit cards in order to steal money.
The father-of-two, who previously admitted five counts of fraud and one count of false accounting, was jailed for 27 months on Friday at Leicester Crown Court.
Recorder Adrian Reynolds told Eaton: ‘The sad thing is we had to wait four years for you to see the light and do the decent thing.’
The recorder said he had seen a BBC Panorama programme on gambling last year and could ‘still remember vividly scenes where people who were obviously struggling were being harassed by gambling companies’.
Thomas Eaton (pictured outside Leicester Crown Court), 34, from Melton Mowbray, was sentenced to more than two years for stealing more than £250,000 from his employer
He continued: ‘Mr Eaton, as revolted as I am by all of that, as I’m sure the vast majority of the country would be revolted by it, this is about what you have done not what they have done.
‘This fraudulent activity was conducted over a sustained period of time – and it was a really sustained period of time.
‘I’m afraid there is still a price to pay.’
Prosecutor Tony Stanford said Dunelm had spent around £100,000 investigating the fraud.
In October, the court heard that bookmaker Betsafe bombarded the gambling addict with personal messages and showered him with cash bonuses of up to £500.
Secret documents revealed the company allowed Eaton to continue betting thousands of pounds even after concerns were raised about his account.
The court heard he took the money to fund a ‘gambling addiction that had escalated out of control’.
On one occasion, Eaton said, he gambled £10 he had reserved to buy milk for his baby.
Yet he was treated like a VIP by the betting company and handed Premier League tickets to watch Manchester City and a night in a four-star hotel, according to documents obtained by the Mail.
Secret documents revealed that bookmaker Betsafe allowed Eaton to continue betting thousands of pounds even after concerns were raised about his account
Eaton (pictured with wife Sam) admitted forging an account book, submitting bogus expense claims worth £112,323 and fraudulently obtaining three company credit cards in order to steal cash
Eaton’s defence barrister Nichola Cafferkey said the defendant was ‘in the grip of a very severe gambling addiction’.
But Ms Cafferkey added: ‘While I acknowledge that the money was being wasted, it wasn’t being used for fancy shopping trips or holidays and the like.’
She said gambling addiction ‘can be likened to an illness’ and that Eaton had ‘lost all sense of judgment’.
Speaking in October, his wife said: ‘It makes me so sick… How was he allowed to spend so much? It doesn’t excuse what my husband has done, but if the companies had done their checks it wouldn’t have gone as far as it did.’
Betsafe documents obtained by the Mail showed he lost £36,422 between October 2017 and March 2018, and was given bonuses of £500 after he admitted he was ‘on a rotten run’.
The records shows that in January 2018, Betsafe’s anti-money-laundering team even checked bank statements showing suspect transactions.
The account records from Betsafe show reams of friendly messages between Eaton and his gambling account manager
When asked to justify the suspicious funds in his account Eaton, of Asfordby Valley in Leicestershire, said the transactions were ‘some extra income from some expenses I was owed’.
His personal gambling account manager responded ‘that should be good’. Three hours later staff had given him the all-clear and he was given a £100 bonus.
Six weeks later, in March 2018, after he had lost £19,754, another check was triggered, which he failed.
The account records from Betsafe, which is owned by Swedish giant Betsson, show reams of friendly messages between Eaton and his gambling account manager.
In December 2017, following the Manchester City match, Eaton said: ‘Thanks again for a cracking day yesterday mate.’
The account manager replied: ‘No worries at all fella was a pleasure getting to meet you.’
In January 2018, he handed Eaton a £100 bonus telling his client: ‘Coz you deserve it fella that’s why. I like to reward my players.’
Eaton replied: ‘I’m on a rotten run at the moment’. And his manager replied: ‘See you need to stop punting elsewhere and only with me and your bonuses will increase.’
A week later the manager told Eaton he had given him a £200 bonus. Eaton replied: ‘nice one thanks mate,’ adding that he ‘had a horror show yesterday’. The account manager replied: ‘No worries at all fella. I had a good couple of bets but then went tits up’.