Council worker used £48,000 public funds to buy gadgets – then sold them through Grainger Games

Sunderland Civic Centre.
Sunderland Civic Centre.

A worker who stole more than £48,000 from the council in an electronic gadget scam has been ordered to pay back every penny or face going to jail.

Administration employee Alison Tindle used a Sunderland City Council Vodaphone account to buy £48,012 worth of mobile phones and tablets, which she sold on through retail outlets Game and Grainger Games.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the thieving mum personally pocketed over £23,500 through the sales of 77 telephones and tablets between July 2013 and December 2014.

Tindle, of Abbey Drive, Houghton, pleaded guilty to theft and was given a suspended prison term last September.

Her case was back at court today for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act where Judge Stephen Earl ruled that she benefited by £48,012 through crime and must pay back that amount, which she has available in assets following a

divorce.

The judge said if the full sum is not paid to Sunderland City Council within 28 days she will face a three month term of imprisonment.

The court heard at a previous hearing the 51-year-old carried out the 17-month long scam without being questioned by council bosses.

It was only when Vodaphone reported the suspicious activity on the council account that an investigation was launched.

Mr Recorder Willliam Lowe QC told Tindle at her sentencing hearing: “You stole from the people of Sunderland in effect, something around £40,000 of money that could have been used for other purposes, for people in Sunderland.

“The system, if it could be called that, was such there was no check either on a weekly, monthly, annual or as far as I can tell, any other basis, to monitor the receipt and disposal of the items.

“It was only after this had been going on for some 18 months it came to light and that was not as a result of any investigation by the council but as a result of Vodaphone contacting the council.”

The judge said an immediate prison sentence would ordinarily follow but that Tindle was in a “difficult” position in her personal life, had led a blameless life and was full of remorse.

He sentenced her to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

Prosecutor Paul Rowland told the court the scam came to light when the phone company got in touch with the council to query the large amounts of orders.

Tindle confessed what she had been doing when she was confronted.

Mr Rowland said: “She indicated she would take receipt of the devices, put them in her bag before leaving work then she would take them to the premises mentioned and sell them.

“She told officers she used the money to pay bills and keep her head above water.

“She also accepted she had given her children two of the phones to use as theirs.”

Jessica Slaughter, defending, said Tindle had a “very difficult” life and handed in a stack of positive character references to the court.

The court heard rental properties owned by the Tindle family were not generating cash.

A council spokesman said: “The City Council worked closely with Northumbria Police on investigating the actions of former employee Alison Tindle.

“Her actions and theft from the public purse were a serious breach of trust.

“The council notes and welcomes this court order.”