Copdock Tesco worker jailed after netting £132,000 in 10-year refund fiddle

Julie Last

Julie Last - Credit: Archant

A Tesco customer service desk worker has been jailed after stealing £132,000 in a 10-year refund fiddle at the retail giant’s Copdock superstore.

Julie Last, of Stamford Close, Ipswich, was sentenced to 28 months’ imprisonment at a hearing before the town’s crown court yesterday.

The 51-year-old had previously admitted three counts of theft by employee and a money laundering charge of converting criminal property.

Prosecutor Ian James said the mother-of-three was caught on November 22, 2013.

Subsequent searches of lockers, Last’s home, and a trawl of her seven bank accounts discovered 68 Tesco gift cards and money she had stolen dating back to 2004.

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The court was told that even while on police bail Last used another stolen gift card to purchase an item in Stowmarket.

Mr James said the accepted figure made by Last through her dishonesty was £132,535.

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Last was employed by Tesco in 1998, and had worked on the customer service desk since 2003.

Her downfall came when security staff became suspicious and CCTV footage was analysed.

Last was seen to take an item, scan it through the till, open the cash draw, and put her hand into it. Something was seen to be removed and put up her sleeve.

She then went to another drawer containing brown envelopes and put her hand in.

CCTV also showed her stealing an item of clothing.

Last was suspended and handed over the key to her locker which was searched.

She also had a key to another locker - which she tried, but failed, to get someone to empty on her behalf.

However, a handbag was found along with 31 gift cards, bank notes and more than 30 brown envelopes some with cash in them.

Mr James said the money laundering charged embraced everything found in Last’s bank accounts which totalled £190,357. Although it was conceded this was not the amount of money said to have been stolen.

One account was a Lloyds Gold Service account with just under £16,000 in it.

Mr James said: “She said it was money she saved from a divorce in 2002. It is quite demonstrably the case (this was) false. The account, in fact, has been shown to have received funds on a pretty regular basis. All indications are that these are stolen funds. Probably none of it comes from her divorce settlement.”

When asked by Judge Martyn Levett if Tesco was seeking to be compensated, Mr James replied: “Miss Shapland (the police financial investigator) hasn’t got specific instructions from Tesco, but it would be surprising if it didn’t want its money back.”

Jo Eley, mitigating, said her client had been a victim of domestic abuse during her offending and was in fragile mental health.

The court was told Last had not led a lavish lifestyle.

Speaking about her client’s arrest in 2013 Miss Eley said: “That is when the dishonesty reached its highest point. She tells me at that stage she just wanted to get caught.

“She says she couldn’t stop herself so she wanted someone to stop her. This was an addiction she could not stop.”

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