Dunelm CFO stole £ 248,000 from work – and gambled it all
A crooked account manager stole nearly a quarter of a million pounds from the Leicestershire-based furniture company Dunelm and blew the lot on gambling.
Thomas Eaton systematically defrauded his employers for four years to fund his addiction – and also splurged on his house deposit and marriage savings on lost bets.
He finally hit ârock bottomâ when he finally lost the family’s weekly shopping money by betting and admitted it at work.
The 34-year-old, from North View Close, in the Asfordby Valley near Melton, has now admitted to fraudulently obtaining Â£ 248,354 from Dunelm between January 2015 and January 2019 at Leicester Crown Court.
Tony Stanford, attorney, said Eaton had worked for Dunelm since 2010 and was promoted from purchasing general ledger clerk to supervisor in 2014.
He was in charge of a three-person team – dealing with the company’s bills, expenses and credit card processing, but lost his job when he finally confessed.
Dunelm also incurred Â£ 100,000 in additional costs to investigate the fraud.
Two gambling companies voluntarily refunded Â£ 55,424 of the money to Dunelm and a further Â£ 36,000 was “in the works”, although other betting companies refused to reimburse anything.
Recorder Adrian Reynolds said Eaton embezzled a “massive” amount of money into his own bank account.
He added: “This touches on an important public question regarding the role of business in encouraging people to play.
âI happen to have seen the Panorama TV show, mentioned in several of your references, about how someone addicted to gambling is harassed and tricked into continuing their addiction in a pretty disgusting way.
âAs outraged as I am by it, with the vast majority of people in this country, this matter is about what you did – not what they did.
âWhat got you across in the end was when you spent the last chunk of your family’s weekly food bill trying to fund your addiction.
“It is to your credit that you have brought this to light yourself and the efforts you have made to overcome your addiction.
“The cure was in your hands all this time, unfortunately we had to wait four years for you to see the light and do the decent thing.”
“There is still a price to pay because all the decent people in this country who have problems … they do not resort to offense, especially on this scale.
“I accept that your remorse is sincere.”
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Nichola Cafferkey, attenuating, said the accused’s many supporting references included MP Carolyn Harris, from the all-party parliamentary group dealing with gambling damage, Eaton’s current employer, friends, his wife and businessmen.
She said: âThe money was not used for shopping trips or luxury vacations.
âGambling has been likened to an illness.
âHe was completely shocked to realize that it involved almost Â£ 250,000.
âHe lost the accounting career he was developing, he almost lost his family and his life was in tatters.
“Your Honor saw a candid letter from the accused explaining how gambling took his life and got out of hand.”
The court heard from Eaton, who had no previous convictions, was successfully undergoing therapy and has since married his partner, who supports him.
He also helped other gambling addicts, made videos on YouTube, and formed a group to support other families facing a similar situation.
In an earlier hearing, Eaton admitted abusing his position to fraudulently obtain Â£ 116,641 as well as Â£ 1,118.
He pleaded guilty to dishonestly obtaining three business credit cards for himself and admitted using them to earn Â£ 18,336.
The defendant further admitted false bookkeeping, falsifying an account book and submitting 20 cash expense claims which he knew to be false or misleading, amounting to Â£ 112,323.
He was jailed for 27 months.