A TRUSTED Wigan supermarket boss has been jailed for stealing almost £50,000 from his employers. A court heard that Edward Coughlin was so highly thought of by Asda chiefs that they sent him to represent them at a US convention.
But he hid a guilty secret and was stashing away large amounts of company cash to feed his gambling addiction.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Coughlin, “corrupted” cashier Deborah Croft into helping him.
But their dishonesty eventually came to light after a colleague spotted that blank “banknote-sized” pieces of paper had been inserted into bundles of cash to “bulk” them up.
The 33-year-old, who ran the Wheatlea branch of the supermarket chain, was jailed for two years and Croft, who said they were lovers, was sentenced to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months.
Jailing Coughlin, who denied they were having an affair, judge Norman Wright said: “Clearly no one could have been put at higher trust then you were. The message needs to go out that for this type of offending prison awaits.”
He told him, “You ensnared her (Croft) and corrupted her into your wrongdoing. She overrode her natural sense of decency and honesty. “
Sentencing 34-year-old Croft to eight months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months, he said, “You got not one single penny and you have lost your job, your career and your good name.
“He exploited the emotional attachment you had for him.”
Judge Wright said that they had been “in some kind of relationship” and she felt locked in and did not have the courage to confess what was going on with the store takings.
He ordered her to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and imposed a three-month curfew between 8pm and 6am.
Coughlin, of Marmion Avenue, Bootle, Merseyside pleaded guilty to theft and Croft, of Tudor Grove, Winstanley, pleaded guilty to fraud.
Tom Watson, defending, said that Croft “has brought shame on herself, now got a record for dishonesty and it will have an impact on her employability.”
She was struggling to bring up two children in rented accommodation and is now at risk of losing it. She had not benefitted “in any way from the money,” he added.
Defence barrister Martin Pizzey said that Coughlin, who is married with no previous convictions, had admitted his guilt which stemmed from his gambling debts. He disputed that he had been having an affair with Croft and said they were just friends.