Redcar and Cleveland Council worker jailed for £724,000 fraud

Steven Topham
Image caption Steven Topham could not tell police how many phones he had sold

A council worker from Middlesbrough who defrauded a mobile phone company out of £724,000 to buy a hot tub and caravan has been jailed for three years.

Steven Topham, 36, ordered more than 1,700 mobiles for Redcar and Cleveland Council using Vodafone's credit system.

The court heard how Topham realised if he quickly cancelled the orders, the credits were not immediately recovered.

Topham, from Coronation Green, Park End, earlier admitted fraud at Teesside Crown Court.

The crime was uncovered when Vodafone's courier company grew suspicious about making a delivery of 32 Samsung Galaxy phones, and an internal inquiry was launched.

Topham was stopped by police last year, who found £15,500 in cash in the boot of his car.

'Stupidity and greed'

The court heard how Topham used the built-up credit to buy phones, most of which were then sold on by an associate in Oldham.

The two would make contact via eBay and exchange cash at a Teesside lay-by, the court heard.

The court heard how the Oldham buyer also bought a car for Topham.

Topham told Cleveland Police he had bought a hot tub, sauna, holiday caravan, electrical goods and paid off his substantial debts with the money.

However, he could not tell police how many phones he had sold or how much he had made.

Judge Howard Crowson said Topham, who admitted fraud by abuse of position and converting criminal property at an earlier hearing, was guilty of a "breach of trust".

A proceeds of crime hearing will take place next year.

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