By Oliver Hall
A debt-ridden father has been jailed for 15 months after being found guilty of stealing nearly £120,000 worth of tyres from his employer.
Christopher Watson discovered a flat in the computer software system used at the Darlington depot where he worked, which allowed him to make ‘phantom’ transactions over four-and-a-half years.
Martin Towers, prosecuting, told Teesside Crown Court that the 24-year-old was able to create a document making it look as if tyres were being transferred from one depot to another.
However, the tyres would never arrive at their intended destination and Watson simply kept the stock in question for himself, before selling them on to friends.
Mr Towers said the deception only came to light when a member of staff became suspicious about a transaction involving a particularly rare tyre.
The actual cost to the company of the tyres stolen was £76,776, but their retail value, including VAT, was totalled £119,195.
Watson, of Thornton Street, Darlington, admitted stealing the tyres between January 2005 and June last year.
The defendant told police he had debts of £20,000 and needed to make £200 a week from the scam to keep himself afloat. He said he discovered the software flaw by accident and at first began selling the tyres to friends, before word of mouth led him to supply many people.
Kieran Rainey, mitigating, said Watson was a hard working man of previous good character, who still had outstanding debts of £16,000.
He added that Watson, who has a partner and young family, had sold the tyres at half their actual price.
Judge, Felicity Davies, told him: “I would be failing in my duty if I did not send you immediately to prison.”
She said Watson had stole regularly, frequently and in large quantities over a very long period, which was an aggravating factor, as was the fact that suspicion over the thefts fell, wrongly, on another member of staff.
Recorder Davies said Watson, who had committed a grave breach of trust, had become a well known source of very cheap tyres.