May 25 2013 Latest news:
By Colin Adwent, Crime correspondent
Saturday, January 19, 2013
AN ASSISTANT manager has been spared jail after admitting stealing £5,000 worth of lottery scratchcards from the Co-op store where he worked.
Darren Eldridge, of King George’s Avenue, Leiston, must pay back £1,800 in prize money and repay more than £3,000 in compensation to his former employer.
The 32-year-old was also given a 12-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, by Lowestoft magistrates after previously admitting theft by employee.
The thefts took place over a six-month period while Eldridge is understood to have been working at the Co-op in High Street, Aldeburgh. Eldridge was caught after an internal inquiry by his employer. The matter was then referred to police.
When questioned by officers Eldridge told them he had stolen a quantity of scratchcards between July 1 and December 20 last year.
He said the offences occurred as he was depressed, and things had been going wrong in his life over that period.
Eldridge took 18 packets of cards during the six months.
He would scan the first scratchcard in the pack on the shop’s lottery terminal to activate the cards.
Eldridge would then take the packets to the rear of the store, where he would leave them until picking them up when he left work. The packs could contain 60 to 100 cards.
Eldridge would take any winning tickets to stores in Ipswich and Woodbridge to collect the money.
It is understood the prize money could be anywhere between £80 and £100.
He told police no one else was involved.
Eldridge was arrested on December 20 and taken to Martlesham police investigation centre for questioning.
He was charged with theft the same day.
Eldridge admitted theft on his first appearance before North East Suffolk Magistrates’ Court on January 8.
As part of his suspended sentence, Eldridge must complete 80 hours of unpaid work.
He was also ordered to pay £1,800 to the loser of the lottery prize money, and give the Co-op £3,240 in compensation for the scratchcards which were taken.