A FRAUDSTER who abused his position to rip off his employer of more than £20,000 has avoided being sent to jail.

Christopher Hobson, of Jodrell Drive in Grappenhall Heys, used the funds to fuel his ‘horrid’ gambling addiction and live a life above his salary.

Chester Crown Court heard how the 30-year-old had ‘blown through’ the money he stole from event organising firm Incentivise, based in Higher Whitley – money which could not be recovered.

But despite this, his willingness to repay a small fraction of the amount and his previous good character spared him from immediate custody.

Peter Hussey, prosecuting, spoke of how Hobson was initially employed as account manager at the company, but was promoted to senior account manager as directors had ‘high hopes’ for him.

Little did those directors know at the time that their employee was ripping them off for more than five years between 2014 and 2019.

In his role, Hobson would organise business travel and bespoke oversees events for clients – companies with budgets of up to £2.5million in some instances.

The court heard how the defendant would create bogus invoices for bogus companies, which would see his employer provide experiences that Hobson would either enjoy himself or cash in on.

Money would arrive in the bank account of his girlfriend and then be transferred out to him, with the extent of his fraudulent gain estimated to between £20,200 and £24,600.

Mr Hussey described Incentivise as a small company with strong client base and reputation, and Hobson as someone who was well liked by directors and received good feedback from clients.

His scheme began to unravel when he created an invoice for hard-to-acquire tickets for Cheltenham Racecourse valued in excess of £1,400 under the company name of Events 75.

The business was unfamiliar to directors, who discovered that invoices for the company featured regularly in the company’s accounts and were all managed by Hobson.

Directors launched disciplinary proceedings against the defendant, who protested that all invoices were genuine. He became agitated however when directors threatened to investigate further.

At a formal disciplinary hearing in April 2019, the defendant confessed that he defrauded the company as he was in debt.

He was later sacked. It was later discovered that after the hearing, Hobson sent a text message which said: “Just had review meeting. No mention of dodgy receipts but no pay rise either. W*****s.”

Defending Hobson, Rebecca Penfold referred to her client’s guilty plea and how his pre-sentence report notes that he has a realistic prospect of rehabilitation.

Of his gambling addiction, she said: “It is a horrid addiction – one he is taking seriously and is working on.”

An offer of £3,000 compensation – the entirety of the defendant’s bank account – was made as a ‘sign of his remorse’.

Ms Penfold added: “I ask that you allow this young man some hope for the future and allow him to work towards a better life.”

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Before sentencing, judge Simon Berkson said: “You stole more than £20,000 from your employer to fund your gambling addiction and enjoy yourself above your own salary.

“You were good at your job and was well respected, but you threw your employers’ trust back in their face.

“You have not been in trouble before and you are a good worker when you put your mind to it.”

Hobson was sentenced to 16 months in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered to complete 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days and 200 hours unpaid work.

An order was also made to pay the £3,000 in compensation, on which judge Berkson added: “I would encourage you to repay the full amount you stole to gain back your self-respect.”