Scratch cards stolen to feed addiction

Martin's convenience and post office in Owton Manor Lane
Martin's convenience and post office in Owton Manor Lane

AN addicted shop worker duped his bosses to steal £4,768 worth of scratchcards to feed a gambling habit – but claimed he only won £100.

Nathan O’Donavan also stole £179 worth of cigarettes during his six months as a supervisor at the Martin’s convenience store and post office, in Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool.

Hartlepool Magistrates’ Court heard how the 22-year-old became addicted to the scratchcards after seeing customers winning money.

But despite buying hundreds of the cards with money he gained by sneakily putting through false refunds, he picked up just £100 in winnings.

When he was caught by store bosses, he confessed to breaching their trust, saying: “I’m addicted and I can’t stop”.

He was given an 18-month community order with a four-month night-time curfew and was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work by town magistrates.

He was also ordered to pay £500 in compensation after he admitted to theft that totalled £4,947 between June 30, last year, and January 26.

His lawyer, David Harbron, said O’Donavan, of Duncan Road, Hartlepool, was now jobless and living on benefits after his “foolish” mistake.

He added: “He did not make a great deal of money out of this. He was not very lucky with these cards, and only won £100.

“It was only a small amount which he took out each day, but obviously that has added up. The store also withheld wages of £840 so the total owing is more like £4,100.

“He said he’s extremely embarrassed and his mum, who is in court, is also extremely embarrassed.

“It is fair to say he had an addiction while working there, seeing people in buying scratchcards and winning, and wanting a bit of it.

“Like a fruit machine, he would see the lights and get carried away, but he doesn’t do it any more.”

Joanne Hesse, prosecuting, had told the court how O’Donavan refunded items off the shelf in the store to free up cash from the till, which he then bought cards and cigarettes with.

His thieving came to light when the area manager carried out a six-monthly stock check and discovered an “unusually high” amount of refunds.

O’Donavan confessed to the theft when confronted by bosses.

Mrs Hesse said: “He took winning cards to another store to get his winnings and spent the £100 on himself and a young child.

“When interviewed by police, he thought that at most he was responsible for £1,000 and did not realise the scale of what he was doing.

“He admitted to being responsible for the stock defect and said he was addicted and had thought about getting help, but never did.”