An online gambling addict who worked as a bookkeeper stole more than £850,000 from his employer, and now he has been put behind bars for a period of three years and four months.
Matthew Stevens, age 30, a resident of Thorn Grove, Rothwell, UK, worked as a bookkeeper for a businessman named Mahmood Mahzar. Apparently, his boss "treated him like a son" after he took him in when he was a school leaver, and he trained Stevens in accounting and bookkeeping.
However, Stevens abused the trust given to him and consistently swindled money from the firms' accounts over a 13-month period in order to fuel his online gambling addiction. He was a VIP customer of the UK-based bookmaker Betfred website.
Stevens was the in-house accountant for two of his boss' businesses: Norman Bar located on Call Lane, in Leeds city centre, and Core Telecommunications which is based in Stanningley. He was responsible for paying staff wages, paying creditors, and he also had access to the firms' bank accounts.
The Leeds Crown Court was told that Stevens "bled" company bank accounts dry by transferring money to his own accounts and covering it up with fictitious transactions.
His boss became concerned when creditors started contacting him, saying that they had not been paid, but Stevens was able to convince his boss that they were wrong.
The unsuspecting boss was then contacted by Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) over an unpaid tax bill of £250,000, and Stevens was again questioned. He continued to tell lies and create fake online documents so he can claim to have proof that HMRC made an error. However, this resulted to an investigation and Stevens was arrested.
Stevens pleaded guilty to two charges of theft
Stevens' defence lawyer said that after losing a total of £13,000, the bookkeeper became addicted on online gambling. The UK Gambling Commission has been notified about the incentives presented by Betfred to encourage Stevens to continue gambling, offering him in the form of free bets right after he had lost huge amounts of money.
The defence lawyer added, "The money was taken and the money was stolen and the defendant has used that money for gambling and not to fund a lavish lifestyle." Stevens meant to give back whenever he won; however, it soon dawned on him that he would not be able to pay back the money he took from the accounts he was entrusted to manage.
Realizing he would be caught soon, after going into a "spiral of depression", Stevens went missing.
"You knew the intimate workings of this business and you must have known the impact of bleeding those bank accounts dry," said Recorder Abdul Iqbal, QC, who sentenced Stevens.
A spokesperson from Betfred contacted the Yorkshire Evening Post, saying that the company "would look to review its operating procedures should any learning points emerge from this or indeed any case. However there is no evidence to suggest that any enticement of any kind was a factor in this case."
Mr. Mahmood left a statement to the Yorkshire Evening Post, saying "I feel devastated by what he has done to me. I trusted the guy completely and gave him a great opportunity and he still did this to me. Fortunately both businesses have survived despite this betrayal."
This story is closely similar to what happened to Carol Dumont of England, who stole almost £1M from her employers so that she can fund her excessive online gambling addiction. Read about her story here.