A trusted manager of a steel company who stole to fund his gambling addiction has been ordered to pay back thousands of pounds.
Brian Blake, 65, fleeced Rycon Steels Ltd, based in Cardiff, out of £8,600 over a five-month period in 2018 after failing to bank the funds, instead pocketing them for his own uses.
As a result of his offending, the company suffered a downturn in profit while husband and wife owners Andrej Djordjevitch and Helen Dyer had to work around the clock to resurrect the firm’s fortunes.
Now the 65-year-old has been ordered to pay back more than £8,000.
At a short hearing in Cardiff Crown Court on Friday (February 19) he was ordered to pay back £7,650 to the victims within three months.
Recorder Simon Mills also ordered him to pay £528 in costs and a victim surcharge during the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.
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A previous sentencing hearing in November heard general manager Blake had worked for the company, in Wentloog Road, Rumney, for 15 years.
Mr Djordjevitch entrusted the management of the company to the defendant, due to the owner’s age, but an internal investigation was launched after he was surprised to discover a downturn in profits.
Prosecutor Jeffrey Jones said: “The company was operated by people making orders for steel and they would take payment in terms of cash from people who had placed orders and money would be handed over to this defendant who would receive this cash.
“He would be expected to bank this money via the accounts clerk but he didn’t do that for a period of five months until he fell under suspicion.”
Blake later approached Mr Djordjevitch and admitted stealing, saying he had been struggling with a gambling addiction. He appeared “apologetic” and the owner agreed to effectively “write it off”.
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Mr Jones added: “Mr Djordjevitch appears to be a decent man and treated the defendant well – provided him with a salary of £75,000 per annum and loaned him money to buy his house and pay for his daughter’s wedding.”
Mrs Dyer said she had to play a more active part in the business to investigate the issue and discovered the defendant had been taking advantage of his perks by way of Premier League football tickets and an overuse of petrol.
Blake, of Amelia Close, Newport, was then referred to HR for investigation and he later resigned. He was arrested in February 2020 and later pleaded guilty to theft.
In a statement read out to the court, Mrs Dyer said: “My life has been hell. I am 68 years old and had no idea what I was walking into – 15-hour days seven days a week for six months that then became 12-hour days six days a week. And still I have no life.
“The business was so badly neglected in every way that it has taken until now to be able to see that it is turning around.
“So 12 months of hard labour for me, sleepless nights worrying about will the business survive, giving up my ambitions to run a vegan kitchen in my retirement years, never seeing my home, no holidays, no time for my grandchildren or children or to see my friends.”
The court heard Blake had repaid £950 of the stolen money but defence barrister Derrick Gooden said his client also had £200 taken out of his salary a month until he resigned from the company.
He added: “I admit this offence involved a significant breach of trust but he notified the company director of his offending and he made an agreement to repay the monies he has taken.”
Recorder Patrick Upward QC said he was prepared to pass a suspended sentence. Addressing Blake he said: “You are an intelligent and experienced manager. You were trusted by the people who own this company and given considerable discretion.
“You breached that trust and you stole from them even though over the course of your long career with them they helped to buy your house and pay for your daughter’s wedding.”
Blake was sentenced to six months imprisonment suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.