Council IT boss jailed for three years over £724k mobile phone scam (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Redcar & Cleveland Council's IT boss jailed over £724k mobile phone scam
1:42pm Monday 23rd September 2013 in News
A council IT boss who defrauded Vodafone out of £724,000 and used cash he made to buy a hot tub and a caravan has today (Monday, September 23) been jailed for three years.
Steven Topham, 36, manipulated the mobile phone giant's credit system to order more than 1,700 high-value handsets, most of which were sold on by an associate.
When police arrested him last year, they found £15,500 in cash in the boot of the Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council worker's car.
Vodafone offers customers credit for making purchases and Topham realised if he made orders for the council but quickly cancelled them, the credits were not immediately recovered, Teesside Crown Court heard.
He used the built-up credit to buy iPhones, Samsung Galaxies and BlackBerries, most of which were delivered to a trader's address in Oldham. Topham had made contact with the seller via eBay.
His buyer would drive up to a Teesside lay-by to exchange cash.
The fraud was exposed when Vodafone's courier company grew suspicious about making a delivery of 32 Samsung Galaxies and an internal inquiry was launched.
Topham, of Coronation Green, Park End, Middlesbrough, could not tell police how many phones he had sold or how much he had made.
He told police he had bought a hot tub, sauna, holiday caravan, electrical goods and paid off his substantial debts.
The judge heard the Oldham buyer purchased a car for the defendant.
Topham, who was voice and data network team leader at the council, also bought theatrical lights which he rented to local productions.
Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said: ''The value of the fraudulent credit was £724,014. That is a direct loss to Vodafone.''
The crooked IT boss kept a few handsets which he used for himself or gave as presents.
Miss Masters said after his arrest: ''He regretted what he had done and put it down to his stupidity and greed.''
She said Vodafone expected a customer like the local authority to accrue around £80,000 in credit over a two year period. Such was the extent of Topham's fictitious ordering, the council's credit account for September 2009 to September 2012 was £987,695.
Uzma Khan, defending, said: ''Mr Topham is an utterly remorseful man full of shame.
''Not only because he find himself before the court today, but also for the shame he feels he has brought upon his family, his friends, his colleagues and the effects upon the council and Vodafone.''
Judge Howard Crowson said Topham, who pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and converting criminal property at an earlier hearing, was guilty of a breach of trust.
''You set out on what was clearly a professional fraud,'' he said.
A proceeds of crime hearing will take place next year.