A Huddersfield University employee stole thousands of pounds – then went on a four day sending spree with the cash.
James Patton, who was working as a finance assistant in the university’s arts school, was trusted to purchase goods for the department.
But the 22-year-old abused that trust and days into the job used the university’s credit card to spend over £4,450 on himself.
His shopping spree included paying rent on his flat, train tickets, a hotel stay, gifts from Selfridges, an Apple MacBook and iPhone, food and drinks – plus flowers and a balloon from Moonpig.
He was caught when he tried to use the credit card for legitimate purchases for the university and it was declined.
Patton, of Savile Grange Apartments in Free School Lane, Halifax, pleaded guilty to theft by employee.
Prosecutor Bill Astin told Kirklees Magistrates’ Court that Patton started work at the Queensgate campus on February 6.
As part of his employment he was tasked with purchasing items over the phone and internet for the arts school using a credit card kept in a safe.
Two supervisors had access to the safe and the card was supposed to be immediately returned after being used.
Patton had use of this on a regular basis but staff sometimes checked the envelope it was returned to instead of its contents, Mr Astin said.
Five days after he started work he used the credit card to pay his rent to estate agents over the phone.
On February 10 Patton purchased two return tickets from Halifax to Manchester online with Trainline.
The same day he also paid for £70 worth of food at TGI Fridays in the town.
The next day he spent £68 on flowers and a balloon which he sent to a woman via Moonpig.
He bought a meal via delivery site Deliveroo and organised it to be sent to an address in Manchester.
On the same date he made six purchases at Selfridges in Manchester totalling £82 and these items were later recovered from his home by police.
He withdrew £150 from a cash machine and bought drinks several times from bars including Yates in the city.
Patton spent £196 on a one night stay at a hotel in Manchester on February 12.
He then bought £1,408 on a MacBook and iPhone from the city’s Apple Store.
On Valentine’s Day he was caught on CCTV spending £130 at the Watch Station in Leeds but the card was declined when he attempted a further two purchases there.
Mr Astin said: “On February 15 he was asked to take the card out of the safe for a purchase but he told the supervisor that the card had been declined.
“Staff made enquiries with the bank and were told about the transactions.”
Patton, who was sacked from his job on February 16, was bound to be caught, his solicitor told the court.
Emma Haley added in her mitigation: “The transactions were always going to be discovered as the level of sophistication was very low indeed.
“He’s at a loss to explain what caused him to behave in this way – he thinks he simply lost his head after the loss of a friend who committed suicide.
“A week after that the friend’s mother also killed herself and he thinks the events had a profound effect on him, although that doesn’t excuse his behaviour.”
Magistrates sentenced Patton to a community order with 10 days of rehabilitation activities and 40 hours of unpaid work.
He must pay the full amount of compensation to the university as well as £85 costs and £85 victim surcharge.