A GAMBLING addict who squandered his £10,000 winnings from the TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? has been given a suspended prison sentence for fraud.
Simon Flood used his position of trust as a catering manager at King James’s High School in Almondbury to steal just over £9,700 from Kirklees Council in the hope of trying to recoup his gambling losses.
Prosecutor Gavin Howie told Bradford Crown Court on Wednesday how discrepancies in the accounts were noticed in May, but before Flood could be challenged about them he turned up at a superior’s office in a distressed state and told her he had been taking the cash.
“He admitted to her that he had a gambling addiction. He was spending the money on the roulette wheel and clearing some former debts,” said Mr Howie.
He said Flood’s winnings from the TV quiz show had also gone on gambling and the 38-year-old told police he had ‘buried his head in the sand’.
Flood was a finalist in the nationwide school chef contest in March.
Not that he was not used to the spotlight. He was on TV in January, taking part in Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? with Chris Tarrant.
He got his chance in the hot seat and went home with £10,000.
The £20,000 question that stumped him was “Which bridge is known as The Coat-hanger?”.
He did not know if it was the Sydney Harbour Bridge (which is the correct answer) or the Rialto Bridge in Venice.
Flood trained as a chef at Huddersfield Technical College after being brought up in Mirfield, and worked for charities before arriving at King James’s School.
Flood, of New Road, Kirkheaton, admitted the fraud charge before Huddersfield magistrates and they committed his case to the crown court for sentence.
The court heard that Flood, who had previously served in the Royal Navy, had acted completely out of character in taking the money.
“He is utterly remorseful and disgusted with his behaviour, particularly given his position of responsibility,” said his barrister Adam Birkby.
“He did confess to his employer which negated the need for a lengthy and expensive investigation by the police and his employers. The finger of blame was not pointed at anybody else.”
Mr Birkby said the prize-winning chef was proud of the position he had reached in Kirklees and he realised he would never again be allowed in a position where he handled money or a budget.
“The motivation for the thefts, for what it is worth, was firstly a crippling debt of £16,000,” said Mr Birkby.
“He was facing demands from debt collectors and receiving up to 30 calls a day.
“He fell into the trap of gambling in order to pay off the debt quicker. What was a habit became an addiction.”
Judge Jonathon Durham Hall QC made Flood the subject of a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, but he also imposed a four-month curfew which means he must be at home between the hours of 10pm and 6am every night.
The suspended sentence order also includes 150 hours’ unpaid work for the community and 18 months’ supervision.
Although the judge said it would be a nonsense for him to order Flood to pay compensation at £5 or £10 a week he pointed out that Kirklees Council could still sue him for the money.