A MOTOR trader who kept a £23,000 payment for a car which he never supplied spent the money in the space of a fortnight on bets at the bookmakers.
Sheffield Crown Court heard that Scott Mootoo, 40, struck a deal with a customer on a Volvo car but checks revealed problems and the buyer pulled out.
But the payment went through by mistake and when the customer realised he tried to retrieve the agreed fee of £23,500.
His attempts proved unsuccessful so the police were contacted and in October last year Mootoo was arrested.
Inquiries revealed he had been placing bets ranging from £200 to £4,000 in the previous few months.
When interviewed by police he admitted the customer had told him there was a problem with the Volvo and he had received the cash by mistake.
He had spent the cash and said he could not repay it. He said he was addicted to gambling and had spent the windfall “in a matter of weeks”.
Mootoo, of Lancaster Street, Barnsley, admitted theft when he appeared at Sheffield Crown Court.
Neil Aspinall, mitigating, said at the time the cash was paid into his account his business was going well but it later ran into difficulties.
Mr Aspinall said Mootoo had no assets to repay the debt but had just been offered a £30,000 a year job.
He had been in the motor trade for 20 years and did business abroad as well as in the UK.
The barrister said Mootoo had a customer in Thailand who owed him £25,000 to £30,000 and Mr Mootoo flew out to collect the cash but after a few days there had a serious motorbike accident.
He spent two-and-a-half weeks in hospital and contracted an infected leg and the hospital bill and flight home had to be met by his extended family. He flew back to the UK against medical advice and when he arrived at Manchester Airport earlier this month was arrested and placed in custody. He has since been treated for broken ribs and an elbow and a cracked kneecap.
Judge Alan Goldsack told Mootoo: “You came into possession of what most people would regard as a substantial sum of money knowing full well that a mistake had been made.
“Instead of doing the honest thing and repaying it within days you had spent it largely on gambling.”
But the judge said he had suffered a “catalogue of misfortune” after flying abroad to chase the debt he was owed and had failed to appear in court earlier this year because he was in hospital abroad.
Judge Goldsack said he would defer sentence until December this year and ordered Mootoo to carry out 100 hours of unpaid community work and repay the debt at a monthly rate when he starts his new job.
He added: “If you comply with these expectations I will deal with you in a way which does not involve immediate loss of liberty.”