Finance worker gambled £500,000 of clients’ money on bingo

A finance worker has been jailed for spending more than £500,000 of her company’s clients’ money playing online bingo.

Patricia Lomas, 55, diverted cash into her own account to fund her internet gambling addiction.

Jersey’s Royal Court was told that Lomas spent £759,625 on gaming websites, of which £542,610 was taken from other people’s accounts.

She told the court that she was a “hostage” to her gambling addiction.

Jailing Lomas for four years, Deputy Bailiff William Bailhache told her: “You did have six members of staff under you. Although not at director level you have a position of responsibility inside the company.”

The court was told that Lomas was able to doctor statements while an investment support manager at Ashburton (Jersey) Limited. By the time that the money was discovered to be missing last year she had spent £10,000 on dental work, £3,400 on laser eye surgery and £12,795 on a car.

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Crown Advocate David Hopwood said, however, that the vast majority of the money was spent on internet bingo.

Lomas spent £6,805 on gaming websites in 2008 but started to bet much bigger sums after she began raiding her clients’ accounts in January 2009.

The more that she lost, the more she gambled trying to recoup her losses. Between January and November 2013 she spent £276,765, betting an average of £228 each time she played.

Advocate Alexander English, for Lomas, said that her gambling addiction was triggered by the “stresses and strains” of her working environment.

He said she was of previous good character, had co-operated fully with police and even told her employers about potential deficiencies in their operating practices.