Reformed heroin addict caught out in booze scam at Sunderland store

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A FORMER heroin addict with £40,000 of debt helped a man steal alcohol from his employers.

Cashier Lee Stephenson pretended to put £300 of booze through his till at Booker Cash and Carry in Sunderland and let the man leave without paying, on October 26.

Sunderland Magistrates’ Court heard the 33-year-old was offered a “sweetener” by the regular customer to carry out the scam.

His plan backfired when the theft was spotted and he was sacked.

Stephenson, from Hendon in Sunderland, pleaded guilty to stealing £300.92 of alcohol at the court yesterday.

Paul Anderson, prosecuting, told magistrates that the man approached Stephenson a week before the scam took place and asked him to help him steal the stock.

He said: “The following week, he was working on the till when the customer came through. Nothing was said, but the defendant moved some items from a trolly into another trolly, without scanning them.”

Heather Bolton, defending, said Stephenson had been working at the cash and carry for 11 months.

She added: “One of the customers approached him and said he was short of money and asked if he would sort him out.

“Foolishly, he agreed to do so. He was immediately sacked from the cash and carry.

“He has no previous convictions for dishonesty, but obviously this is a breach of trust.”

Probation officer Ian Richardson told the bench that Stephenson, a former University of Sunderland student who is £40,000 in debt, had not taken heroin for a year.

He was now unemployed and living off benefits, staying with a friend in Mailing Close.

Mrs Bolton added: “He has shown he can stay out of trouble and has only one matter recorded against him.

“He has gone to the relative agencies on his own, to resolve the problems he has and is on Subutex.”

District Judge Roger Elsey imposed a 12-month community order, with 40 hours of unpaid work.

Stephenson must also pay £150 compensation to his former bosses.

No charges were brought against the customer.