Suffolk scammer to pay back thousands from John Lewis refund fraud

Mark Welham's fraud covered John Lewis stores across the country Picture: SU ANDERSON

Mark Welham's fraud covered John Lewis stores across the country Picture: SU ANDERSON

A Suffolk man has avoided going straight to jail for running a refund scam at John Lewis stores across the country.

Mark Welham received a suspended 26-week prison sentence for carrying out the retail fraud at various stores over a period of a year and a half.

The 49-year-old had already admitted the offence at a court hearing on January 7 but returned to face magistrates in Ipswich on Tuesday following the preparation of a pre-sentence report.

Welham, of Seymour Avenue, Brandon, was said to have been in “enormous financial difficulty” when he began the price switching refund scam at a branch of John Lewis in November 2016.

The fraud continued for 18 months and netted Welham £4,351.62 in higher value refunds for items he returned to the sales counter.

Prosecutor Tess Mann said the offence was aggravated by its high value, lengthy duration and wide scale.

Claire Lockwood, mitigating, said Welham had made full admissions during police interview and entered a prompt guilty plea at the earliest opportunity in court.

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“He fully accepts the offence covers various locations across the country, over a fairly long period of time,” she added.

“At the time, he was earning a lot less than he is now, and his financial circumstances had become complex.

“He became so entrenched in doing it, he can’t explain why it happened so many times.”

Welham was said to have since saved enough money to repay John Lewis the full amount.

Presiding magistrate Michael Cadman told Welham: “We’ve heard some mitigation, but quite a lot of aggravation for this offence.

“Your guilty plea is what prevented us from sending you to crown court for sentencing.

“We want to reflect how serious this is in our sentencing.

“Whatever the reasons behind the offence to do with your personal life, this is a high level of offending with a high degree of culpability.”

Welham was handed a 26-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

He must also carry out 180 hours of unpaid work in the community, pay £85 towards the cost of prosecution and a £115 statutory fee towards victim services, and repay John Lewis £4,351.62.