Brian Keep even managed to make a £10 profit by selling the brand-new shirt online, Oxford Crown Court has learned.
The judge, who now works as a milkman, on Thursday (May 25) gave the 50-year-old six months to pay compensation – otherwise he risked jail time.
The theft, which took place between November 2021 and March last year, was only discovered when Keep’s boss at Henley Heating and Plumbing noticed that his employee had placed orders with the company’s parts supplier for quotes for real customers that were ultimately not from the company have been tracked – be customers.
When the deals weren’t met, Keep’s parts orders weren’t increased. Instead, he kept the parts he ordered for himself and sold the items on eBay.
He issued 16 separate orders over five months through March last year, prosecutor Neil King said.
Keep was on sick leave when his theft was discovered, and his boss is said to have had nightmares before confronting his employee about the dishonesty.
When questioned – first by his boss, then by the police – Keep claimed he had spent the money he made from the eBay purchases on heroin.
Appearing before Oxford magistrates last month, Keep, of Whitley Wood Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to theft by a staff member. He was previously convicted of theft and handling of stolen goods in the 1990s, but more recently has only been convicted of drug possession.
In a personal statement from the victim, summarized by prosecutor King, Keep’s previous employer said he had sleepless nights and nightmares after he exposed the theft.
The £10,000 slump in the small company’s finances meant it could not be paid a bonus this year.
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Leanne Ballato said mitigatingly that her client had managed to overcome a 15-year heroin addiction. However, due to stress at work, he had relapsed into drug use and smoked heroin before and after his shift.
Keep reportedly “really enjoyed his job at the plumbing company” and “felt awful that he let them down.”
He claimed he had given up heroin since he was found out last March and, with the help of his GP, obtained a prescription for methadone, a Class A drug substitute.
The accused was now working as a milkman.
Because Judge Maria Lamb had not raised the idea during prosecution and defense statements, she returned to the courtroom after standing to consider her verdict and postponed sentencing until November 3.
As a condition of the stay, she ordered the milkman to stay out of trouble, remain employed and save money for compensation.