Hartlepool law firm worker sold stolen war medals worth £24,000 on Facebook to pay off gambling debt
A war medals collector was stunned and distressed on discovering that a worker at a law firm where he put his valuable collection for safe keeping had stolen and sold some of it online.
Harry Taylor, 74, put his medals, said to be worth between £100,000-£200,000, in secure storage at a Hartlepool solicitors in 2003.
The collection was intended to be part of his children’s inheritance.
But in March this year it emerged that Ebony Thomas, 23, who worked at the solicitors in an administrative role, had advertised 200 of the medals for sale on Facebook.
Teesside Crown Court heard she took advantage of her position to gain access to Mr Taylor’s box – stealing 40 medals worth £24,000.
Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said: “He was told by the solicitors that the medals would be kept safe and nobody would have access to them apart from him who had the only key to the safe.
"He kept a tight inventory of the contents of the box.”
The court heard Thomas sold some to a collector in Liverpool before handing herself into police after reportedly feeling guilty and trying to get them back.
Around the same time, Mr Taylor had started making his own inquiries and gone to police after a friend spotted Thomas advertising the medals online.
Ms Masters added: “He gave Mr Taylor details of some of the items that were for sale and it was at that point Mr Taylor began to believe that the medals were his.”
He went to the solicitors and inspected his box where it was discovered the lock had been tampered with and some of the medals were gone.
Thomas, of Eltham Crescent, Thornaby, who had no previous convictions, admitted theft.
The court heard she had a £3,000 debt due to gambling and taking out loans.
Michele Turner, mitigating, said of the theft: “The guilt felt was instant and the realisation this was an ill conceived, ill-thought out and ill-prepared act.”
Recorder Jonathan Sandiford said due to Thomas’s personal circumstances he could suspend the eight-month prison sentence for two years.
She was ordered to pay the victim £500 compensation.
The firm where she was employed was not named although the court was told that Thomas now had a new job in a different field of work.