Finance boss who stole £1.1m to fund online gambling addiction jailed for four years
PUBLISHED: 15:56 02 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:26 03 January 2019
A finance director who stole more than £1m from his employer to feed his online gambling addiction was jailed today for four years.
Steven Girling, from Folgate Close, Costessey, siphoned off the cash from sports education firm, Premier Education Group (PEG), where he worked as a finance officer, for more than three years.
The 36-year-old blew half of it with online gambling firms, spending up to £50,000 a day on slot machines and roulette.
One night he lost £18,000 but the firms rewarded him with free VIP trips to Dubai, Ascot and Cheltenham.
The father-of-two kept his addiction hidden from his wife Rashael until everything came crashing down when he left the firm in October 2017.
But only half of the £1.1m, stolen from May 2014 to October 2017, was spent on online gambling.
Judge Stephen Holt expressed cynicism that Girling’s sole motivation was his gambling addiction.
He said: “People who really suffer from extreme gambling addictions tend to arrive here with nothing, only debts.
“You arrived here with some considerable assets.”
Norwich Crown Court heard on Wednesday that Girling had also put £20,000 into ISAs for his children, spent money on a holiday, bought a house and was also suspected of paying off his wife’s parents’ mortgage with the cash.
But Girling told the Eastern Daily Press in December: “I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want to stop.
“I am ashamed, but I want to use this negative part of my life to try and help others so they don’t have to suffer the pain I have put other people through.”
The theft was only discovered after he resigned. He was arrested in February last year and pleaded guilty in November.
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said Girling found himself in a situation where he had the “keys to the sweet shop”.
To avoid detection, he transferred money from the company’s account to his own account, which was “masquerading” as a franchisee’s account.
He also took charge of making payments which he diverted to his own account.
“He did a number of things to cover up what he was doing,” Mr Ivory said. “His activities survived three audits of the company’s accounts.
“It was sophisticated enough to fool external auditors.”
Girling’s barrister John Farmer said: “There is no money stashed away. It is gone.”
Mr Farmer said Girling had spoken out because he wanted to use his experience as a “vehicle for deterring others from gambling”.
“The driving force was one of addiction,” he said.
Around £100,000 has been paid back by Girling which he had in savings and Mr Farmer said a lot more would be returned.
Sentencing him, Judge Holt said: “These thefts were skilled, professionally planned and executed.”
PEG had to spend £30,000 on consultants to untangle the criminal web Girling had woven, he said, after Girling initially refused to help the firm work out how he had stolen the money.