Gambling addict who stole over £38,000 from Lincolnshire County Council jailed for third time

Lincoln Crown Court.
Lincoln Crown Court.

A gambling addict who stole over £38,000 after being employed by a Lincolnshire County Council sub-contractor despite having previous theft convictions was today (Friday) jailed for 15 months.

Darren Challis, 34, was employed in a financial role by both Mouchel and Serco despite being jailed for 18 months in 2013 after he stole over £47,000 while working as a tax assistant for a Lincoln based firm.

Lincoln Crown Court heard Challis was again jailed for 12 months in November last year after he admitted fraudulently evading over £19,000 in income tax.

The publicity from his second jail sentence caused Lincolnshire County Council to investigate his employment with Mouchel and Serco where he worked in a financial role assessing contributions by clients to their social care.

It was discovered Challis stole over £38,000 in credit balances with the largest of the 62 theft transactions being £1,693.

Phil Howes, prosecuting, said: “Because of his ability with a computer he electronically moved money from client accounts into a dormant account, then moved the money into two separate accounts he had and then into a third account where it disappeared mainly into gambling.”

Mr Howes added: “As I understand it nobody has lost out apart from the Council.”

Challis, of Burton Road, Lincoln, admitted the theft of £38,843-74 from Lincolnshire County Council between 15 July 2015 and 1 April 2016.

During interview Challis admitted he had lost the plot with his gambling.

Karen Walton, mitigating, said Challis had pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

Miss Walton told the court: “He is 34 and a highly intelligent man but is addicted to gambling.

“At his last court appearance he had a partner, he no longer has a partner.

“In prison he has gone into catering as he realises he will never now be employed in a financial role.”

Passing sentence Deputy Judge Michael Stokes QC told Challis: “ It is a great pity you did not admit what you had been up to on the last occasion you were in court when you were sentenced to 12 months imprisonment for tax fraud, having previously received a sentence of 18 months imprisonment for theft from an employer.

“It appears you have an addiction to gambling, and were not very good at it.

“Why you sought employment where you would be put in the face of temptation I don’t know.

“This was public money designed and made available for vulnverable individuals, happily they haven’t suffered as the Council made it up, but it is tax payer money.”