A mortgage advisor who stole thousands of pounds from his workplace has narrowly avoided an immediate jail term.
Andrew McNaughton, who worked for the Blackpool branch of the Nationwide Building Society, stole £5,000 customers had paid in fees between May 2012 and October 2014.
They placed their trust in you to deal with their customers and you let them and yourself down very badly
The society spent £91,000 on the probe into his activities, which took 878 man hours, Preston Crown Court heard.
The father-of-four was said to have committed the offence because he was desperate to provide for his family.
McNaughton, 39, of Neville Avenue, Cleveleys, previously pleaded guilty to theft from his employer between May 2012 and October last year.
McNaughton stared at the floor in the dock as Judge Andrew Woolman, imposing 12 months suspended for two years, said: “You had effectively cooked the books and used someone else’s card to make payments that needed to be paid. You were in a position of trust.
“They placed their trust in you to deal with their customers and you let them and yourself down very badly.
Charlie Brown, prosecuting, said he had been a mortgage advisor. His job was to arrange new mortgages, remortgages and loans, some of which would require the customer to pay a fee.
He added: “McNaughton asked some customers to pay the fees in cash and he would then take that cash. In some instances the fees he asked for in cash were fees not applicable to that application. In other instances the fee would be required and in order to account for that fee which he had pocketed he would enter into a fairly complex chain process in which he would use details of other customers’ cards to make it look like the fee had been paid. That chain could be quite lengthy although eventually clearly that chain had to end and a customer would suffer loss.”
The Nationwide has fulfilled its duties and recompensed customers.
Mr Brown added: “He kept detailed records for himself to cover up his tracks but this meant he left a very clear trail for investigators to follow.
“It’s a breach of a high degree of trust.”
McNaughton was rumbled when a woman customer contacted the building society on September 8 last year and queried why her house valuation had not taken place. Officers became suspicious and an investigation revealed her card details had been used to pay for another person’s fee.
In October, McNaughton was suspended from work. When interviewed he admitted taking the money because he had financial problems.
At first it was though he had taken £578 and he said no further money – but a probe revealed a £5,000 theft.
Defending, Darren Lee Smith, said his client, who had no previous convictions, urged the judge to suspend his sentence and said he made no attempt to “worm his way out of the situation” adding: “He had taken out payday loans, a recipe for disaster that resulted in a significant financial position impossible for him to address.”
The court heard he was treated for skin cancer in 2009 and had a reduced income at that point.
He has given Nationwide permission to take the money he owes from his pension and has started work as a delivery driver to pay his debts.