Former energy company worker sentenced for stealing more than £16,000 of customer refunds
A former energy company worker has been sentenced for stealing £16,000 of customer refunds, a court has heard.
Damien Jones, 41, took money that was due to be refunded to customers, siphoning the payments into his own bank accounts instead.
Jones, from Penarth, was employed by Opus Energy and his offending came to light in September 2021 when a customer complained to the company that bailiffs had attended their home because their account was in arrears.
Investigations were carried out and they found that a number of refund payments to various customers had not been made and were diverted to a separate bank account based in Barry. It was then discovered that this account belonged to Jones.
In total, Jones took £16,549 through payments to three accounts under his control between February and April last year.
A sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court on Wednesday heard Jones had attempted to steal £22,968 but the payments had not gone through.
After Jones was arrested, he told police: "My head was gone, I thought I could get away with it. I'm not going to say I didn't do it when you're going to find out I did do it anyway."Prosecutor Paul Hewitt said: "He was placed in a role where he was to safeguard details of customer accounts...He had a higher degree of trust and responsibility and only abuse of it meant he was able to commit this offence."In his police interview, Jones admitted fully to taking the money and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position.
The court heard he had previous convictions including handling stolen goods, theft, possession of an offensive weapon and battery. He had also been made subject to a community order for failing to provide details.
In mitigation, the court was told Jones had been made redundant in April 2021 and was concerned about his financial stability at the time he committed these offences.
Defence barrister Adam Sharp said his client, a father-of-two, was suffering from anxiety and depression and described the offence as "out of character".Mr Sharp said the defendant's deterioration in his mental health, the breakdown of his relationship, his impending redundancy, the hospitalisation of his mother and financial difficulties were "significant contributing factors" in him stealing the money.
The barrister added: "His actions were not borne of malice but motivated by financial difficulties and mental breakdown."
Sentencing, Judge Catherine Richards said: "You had gained trust and respect in your employment to do the role you did and having access to customer details as you did.
"The only victim you could see was your employer or their insurance company but the impact of your offending is clear when and innocent member of the public was faced with bailiffs at their door."Jones was sentenced to 14 months imprisonment suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to carry out 100 days unpaid work, a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement and to pay court costs of £500.