A worker who staged a £125,000 raid at his post office to cover up his own theft has been spared jail.
Khuram Pervez claimed burglars had sneaked into his shop and taken five cash bags, each containing around £25,000, while he had briefly stepped outside for a cigarette.
When the 29-year-old, who is the son of the postmaster, was questioned about what happened, he broke down and confessed that the theft was staged.
Pervez, of Marwell Drive, Washington, admitted he had taken the money from the business, in Warwick Road, Newcastle, to prop up his family's five other shops, some of which were struggling.
The former pharmacy student, who graduated from Sunderland University before joining his family's business, pleaded guilty to theft of £125,368 between January and September this year.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told Newcastle Crown Court: "It was apparent, within a short period of time of the police investigating the alleged burglary, that no burglary had taken place and that if someone had been able to gain access to the shop premises, they would not have been able to gain access to a store room containing the cash for the short period of time he said it was unattended while he was having a cigarette."
The court heard Pervez had made the fake burglary report when he realised an audit was due to be carried out and had felt unable to tell his father about the missing cash.
Toby Hedworth QC, defending, said: "Suddenly that night, knowing what was coming, he made the foolish decision, without thinking it through very well.
"Unfortunately the rest, as they say, is history.
"As soon as he sat down with the officers and started telling the story, they said this doesn't work out and he made full and immediate admissions.
"He is a genuinely remorseful young man."
The court heard Pervez has repaid £30,000 so far and has vowed to pay back the rest in full due to new contracts taken on by the family businesses, which are now expected to flourish.
Judge Robert Adams said he accepted Pervez was an ordinarily hard-working man who is remorseful for his behaviour and sentenced him to ten months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with 150 hours unpaid work.
The judge told him: "Your incarceration would cause significant disruption to the business and effect the ability of the business to repay the Post Office.
"It is accepted by the prosecution you were acting in desperation, unable to confront your father, seeking a short fix by taking money belonging to the Post Office, no doubt hoping it would be repaid in due course but the audit made that impossible."
Pervez handed in a stack of references to his ordinarily positive character and was supported at court by his family.