'Sheer greed' of Eastbourne man in stealing £54,000 from Gardners Books over five years

Christopher Lancaster was jailed for 20 months. Picture: Sussex Police
Christopher Lancaster was jailed for 20 months. Picture: Sussex Police

The ‘sheer greed’ of an Eastbourne man led him to spend nearly five years stealing £54,000 from the company he worked for.

Disgraced payroll supervisor Christopher Lancaster bought a holiday to Dubai and designer clothes with the money he stole while he worked for Gardeners Books, a court heard.

Lancaster, 48, of Seaford Road, took advantage of the fact that he had no direct supervision in order to con a total of £54,180.56.

However he was caught by an auditor and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position. Lancaster appeared at Lewes Crown Court this morning for sentencing.

Theft over nearly five years

Prosecutor Robin Miric told the court how Lancaster spent nearly five years stealing the money, between October 2013 and May 2018.

He said: “In April 2018 there were enquiries about a person on the payrolls found by auditors

“It transpired he did not exist as a current employee. It seemed that there was money missing from the payroll account.”

Confronted with his crime, Lancaster immediately admitted what he had done and resigned from the company.

Defence barrister: 'Great shame' this man of good character is where he is

Defence barrister Justin Rivett said: “It is a great shame that this gentleman who is 48 years old is before the court having never been in trouble with the police for anything at all.

“He really wasn’t supervised at all. He took advantage of that situation until he was discovered and his world fell apart around him.”

He pointed out that Lancaster is a man of previous good character and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

The court heard that Lancaster has offers from family members to help him repay the money owed to Gardeners Books.

Mr Rivett argued that Lancaster had not lived ‘extravagantly’ using the stolen money and asked that he be given a suspended sentence.

Judge: 'Sheer greed' was the motivation

However Judge Christine Laing QC said that he had led ‘a life the vast majority of people envy and can only ever be able to aspire to because they are honest and hardworking’.

“The reality is sheer greed was the driver for this offence, nothing else.

“This was not a moment of madness where you found yourself able to move a substantial amount of money into your account, but a regular repetition of fraud on a monthly basis.

“You were using the names of real employees so when this matter first came to light it would have initially involved consideration of whether they had any involvement.

“I am not persuaded that there are any good reasons for me to suspend the sentence of imprisonment.

“It will be immediate custody.”

Lancaster was jailed for 20 months.

Police: This was 'major breach of trust'

Following the sentencing, Detective Inspector Andy Eggleton said: "Our investigation found that this was a major breach of trust by a long serving employee and the sentence reflects the serious view that the court took of Lancaster's offending."