‘Face of company’ betrayed boss with £8k butter scam
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A trusted employee who secretly lined his own pockets by selling stock off-the-books has avoided going straight to jail for fraud.
Within a year of joining Suffolk firm Infusions 4 Chefs as a delivery driver, Stuart Clarke had shown enough potential to be promoted to brand ambassador for the cooking supplies wholesaler.
But the 35-year-old, of Tollgate Lane, Bury St Edmunds, betrayed the trust of employers by selling butter at knockdown prices to customers in the food trade – costing the company thousands in stock and considerably more in consequential losses.
Clarke, who had initially been charged with making £22,746.25 by abusing his position, admitted the offence at Ipswich Crown Court in December on the basis he gained a smaller sum of £8,500 between August 2017 and May 2018.
The fraud was detected when the accounts department of the Rougham-based firm received an email from a restaurant requesting an invoice for the sale of four £25 cases of butter – less than half the usual value of £75.
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It eventually transpired more than 100 cases of butter had gone missing over the period of Clarke’s fraud.
Investigators found he had downloaded software capable of converting company invoices to Word documents capable of being forged.
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Messages were also found from buyers, saying “Deal me in on the butter, man” and “We need to do our dodgy butter deal”.
A victim impact statement by company owner John Jackaman said Clarke’s fraud had had a significant financial impact and left a “deep scar” on its reputation with customers.
Shade Abiodun, mitigating, said Clarke’s remorse was reflected throughout a pre-sentence report by the probation service.
She said Clarke had been struggling financially following the birth of his first child but that pride had got the better of him seeking help from his family and employers.
She said Clarke wanted to repay the money and had offered to start with £1,000 on the day of his sentencing on Thursday.
Judge David Goodin said Clarke repaid the trust of his employers by lying and cheating, adding: “As frauds go, this breach of trust is pretty much as serious as it gets.”
Clarke was handed a 16-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, with 300 hours of unpaid work. He must pay back the money within 12 months.