Football club ticket refund fraudster avoids jail

Fleetwood Town
Fleetwood Town

A former worker at Fleetwood Town FC has narrowly avoided an immediate jail term after admitting being involved in a ticket refund fraud.

A former worker at Fleetwood Town FC has narrowly avoided an immediate jail term after admitting being involved in a ticket refund fraud.

David Hart, who was in dire financial straits, was alerted to the security loophole when a colleague got sacked for the same fraud and took advantage of it, Preston Crown Court heard.

Imposing a 24 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, Judge Heather Lloyd said: “You say you began to steal after another employee had been dismissed - instead of learning from that you jumped on the bandwagon. That really is an aggravating factor.”

Prosecuting, Wayne Jackson described how Hart, 49, of Eamont Place, Fleetwood, had a part time job at the first division club as a part of the ticket sales team, and also had a full time job elsewhere.

On February 25, the club’s chief executive, Steve Curwood was informed by his staff about a discrepancy in the tills in relation to a refund that had been issued as a cheque by Hart.

It prompted enquiries by his staff at the club, including speaking with ticketing company See360, which produced spreadsheets of all the refunds completed by Hart for the past two and a half seasons.

The fraud involved him issuing cash refunds for tickets after matches had already kicked off and once the ticket had been used by a fan to enter the ground.

He admitted fraud by abuse of his position.

Mr Jackson said: “His plea was entered on the basis that he was culpable for £3,857 and that basis was accepted.

“He cited financial difficulties as being the reason he committed the offences. He said the offences were easy to commit as he could access tills that had been left “open” by others – this seems to have been the norm as the logging off and on process can take too long.

“Although this potentially meant that suspicion could be cast on others the defendant did make admissions.

“Further, the defendant acknowledged that his long-term offending only came to light as a result of an error of pressing the wrong key on the keyboard in committing the offence.”

He said the fraud consituted an abuse of trust,was sustained over a period of time and arguably targeted “vulnerable systems of work”.

Judge Lloyd said: “It probably didn’t seem like much at the time but I’m afraid it totted up to £3,857. You took advantage of what was by them the known loophole in the security system.

“You told the the club and the police this only occurred because you were having financial difficulties. I accept this, but many people are in the same boat as you and don’t resort to fraud or theft.

“You also had a full time job so in some respects you were luckier than many.

“It is very unfortunate I don’t have a statement from the club - I don’t know if it is awash with money or not.

“The owner may be wealthy but I’m sure he doesn’t want to lose £4,000.”

Hart must also do 100 hours unpaid work.

Steve Curwood, chief executive at Fleetwood Town, said: “This was a very serious abuse of trust and it sticks in the throat when the chairman, who has invested so much in the town, has individuals willing to take advantage in this way.

“The football club is a community asset and stealing from the club in my opinion is to steal from the people of the town.

“Justice though has now been done but I am disappointed that we were not invited to provide comment before sentencing to support the judge in the findings.”