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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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Cumbria rugby league fans sentenced for stealing from holiday company today

A RUGBY league fan who cost her bosses thousands of pounds by allowing star players from her favourite team to take cut-price holidays in luxury apartments in Cumbria has been given a suspended prison sentence.

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IN COURT Lisa Jones outside Furness Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to theft from an employee and false accounting

Wigan Warriors supporter Lisa Jones was working as estates manager for Pullwood Bay Estates when she invited players and staff from the club to enjoy the upmarket holiday cottages along Windermere

The 47-year-old pleaded guilty at Carlisle Crown Court on Monday to charges of theft and false accounting.

And yesterday (FRI) she was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to do 150 hours unpaid community work.

Passing sentence, Judge Robert Brown told her it was clear that, even though she was "a capable manager" able to successfully drum up business for her employers, for some reason she had "fallen prey to temptation".

He told her: "Now you must pay the penalty - but by the skin of your teeth you are going to escape an immediate prison sentence."

The court heard that Jones, of Vale View, Hawkshead, was thought to have cost the company more than £10,000 by letting out empty apartments to the Wigan party, either for free or at hugely reduced rates.

She was suspended from her job in April last year after her boss could not find any evidence that Wigan Warriors RLFC staff and players had paid more than a few pounds towards their stay.

Only then was it discovered that, not only had she doctored the firm's accounts to hude what she had been doing, but she had also used the firm’s credit card to steal £1,909.54, prosecuting counsel Greg Hoare said.

She spent some of the money on herself for Christmas shopping, but most went on entertaining Wigan Warriors players with pub meals and a champagne lake cruise - all without her employers' knowledge.

Mr Hoare told the court that Jones – who had a previous conviction for deception and had spent 60 days in prison for theft from her insurance company employer in 1999 – had worked for Pullwood Bay Estates since 2008.

“She was plainly a trusted member of staff, entrusted with the general financial running of the site on a day to day basis,” he said.

He said that what Jones did was a breach of her employers’ trust and an abuse of her position.

Wigan Warriors had no reason to believe that there was anything wrong with the deal, Mr Hoare said.

Mr Hoare said that an the hearing earlier this week he had made a mistake by telling the court that manager Shaun Wane had been the first person from Wigan Warriors to have stayed at the holiday complex.

He said this was not so, and said Mr Wane had let it be known he was "wholly unhappy" at the suggestion.

Judge Brown accepted the correction, commenting: "I thought rugby league people were hard men. He is very sensitive."

Defence counsel David Traynor told the court Jones thought the firm would benefit from the kudos of having Wigan's players staying there.

So, without clearing it with her employers, she let them stay very cheaply in apartments which otherwise would have been empty.

She did not benefit personally, although the players sometimes gave her match tickets.

Mr Traynor said Jones thought it would help the business to be associated with such a successful rugby club.

“She was doing her best to run the business and generate bookings,” he said. “She believed it would assist the company if it had the kudos of the players using the estate on future occasions.”

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