%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%A hospitality manager who stole nearly £55,000 from a casino has been jailed for two years.
Martin Palmer, 35, supplied hundreds of forged invoices to Gala Casino, claiming food was being supplied by Italian chain Carluccio's.
He convinced the casino's head office in London to approve payments in petty cash for the non-existent food - which he then pocketed.
Bristol Crown Court heard the fraud, which lasted between April 2011 and August 2013 and involved £54,880.35, led to other members of staff being made redundant.
Palmer, of Grantson Close, Bristol, was arrested after staff became suspicious of his invoices - including 17 submitted on one day - and launched an investigation.
He initially denied wrongdoing but later admitted fraud by abuse of position and said the money had been used to fund his cocaine habit.
Judge Euan Ambrose told Palmer his actions caused the casino's general manager, George Gordon, to offload three members of staff.
"Mr Gordon, during the period made 13 people redundant," Judge Ambrose said.
"He estimates that if you had not committed these offences two or three of those jobs would have
"You were there, you saw people being made redundant. You knew it was due to the financial state of the casino, yet you continued to steal.
"You had a cocaine habit for some six years or so. That is where the money went."
The court was told Palmer approached Mr Gordon in early 2011, offering to use his former employer Carluccio's to provide the casino's food at no extra cost.
Palmer told Mr Gordon that Carluccio's would have to be paid in petty cash, as there was no formal contract between the chain and Gala Casino.
Over a 22-month period, Palmer, who was responsible for the branch's food and bar, submitted 228 false invoices, including some from other catering companies.
Palmer was so trusted within the company that his purchases were simply approved by email from a colleague in the head office, prosecutor Janice Eagles said.
"The manager of the casino was contacted in August because there were concerns about some of the invoices that had been submitted," Ms Eagles said.
"He carried out an investigation and realised that some of the invoices submitted were for items that would not be used for the casino, for example toiletries, a football game and items from retailers such as Ikea, Lidl and Morrisons.
"Mr Gordon contacted Carluccio's and they told him that they hadn't supplied any food to the casino."
Gala Casino's head office then examined the invoices and found they had been submitted on old notepaper that had not been used since 2010, she added.
Police were called and Palmer was interviewed on November 23 2013. He did not comment on the claims but his solicitor indicated they would not be contested.
"The offences have had a significant impact on the company," Ms Eagles told the court.
Mitigating, Donald Tait said his client, who lives with his parents, was of previous good character and educated to degree level.
"He has nothing whatsoever to show for the money that he took," Mr Tait said. "It is quite clear that he would have lost track of how much he was siphoning off the casino as the months went by."
"The money was paid over to those who were supplying him with Class A drugs."
Palmer is "very sorry" if his actions impacted on any jobs at Gala Casino, Mr Tait added.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing will take place at the court at a later date.
The biggest scams of 2013
Prison for casino theft manager
First Direct found that the most common type of fraud was the 'fake email', which makes up 53% of all scams. This is also known as phishing, and involves the fraudsters contacting you, requesting personal information like passwords and PINs.
They use all kinds of methods to persuade you to reveal your details: from pretending to be your bank, to pretending to be the taxman. Earlier this year HMRC warned people to watch out for scam emails promising tax credit refunds in return for account details - timed to coincide with a major advertising campaign to remind people to renew their tax credits.
This is an old and established scam, but is the second most prevalent in the UK this year. It involves someone getting in contact with a sob story, and asking for a sum of money in return for paying you a larger sum. If you pay up you may get requests for more cash but you will never receive a payout.
This year the horrible twist on the scam was that the gangs pretended to be a victim of the war in Syria, in desperate need of money and able to pay you from money he has hidden overseas, once you give him enough money to escape the country.
This is a new take on phishing, which Financial Fraud Action warned about in August. They said victims receive a cold call asking for personal or financial information. Some 39% of all people targeted by these calls said they found it difficult to tell if the person was genuinely from their bank or whether it was a scam. First Direct says this is the third most prevalent type of scam.
Duplicating your bank cards made up 14% of fraud this year. Old-fashioned card scams are actually on the rise this year. The experts say that the introduction of chip and PIN means 'crude scams' are back in vogue, where criminals distract people in shops and bars, or shoulder surf at cash machines and then steal customers' cards without them noticing.
These also make up 14% of all scams. You receive an email telling you that you have won a lottery. All you have to do is get in touch with the 'claims agent' who you'll need to pay a 'processing fee' or a 'transfer charge' to. These 'agents' are all criminals, who will just take your money and run.
We warned in November of a boom in phoney research calls. Boiler room operatives will call pretending to be university researchers looking into investor confidence. In fact, they are just trying to find out how best to exploit you: asking how much cash you have, your attitude to risk, and determining whether an appeal to greed would work.
Back in May we warned that you could receive a telephone call out of the blue from someone claiming to be from Microsoft. The scammers were using a variety of techniques to extract money from their victims. These included infecting computers with malware and charging to remove it, charging people a fortune for help they didn't want or need, or even just asking for their credit card details.
This is not a new type of scam. For years now different types of Trojan viruses have been embedded in various web pages and links. If you click on the page or link you're taken to malicious websites, which install a virus. The virus then quietly sits on your computer, stealing passwords and account details until it has enough details to empty your bank accounts.
This scam took two very popular forms this year. The first was a link sent in an email pretending to be from Facebook, and inviting you to click the link. When you did, it would install the virus and then send the link to your Facebook friends.
The other form was a page with a fake YouTube video in the background, which claimed to show Rita Ora's famous wardrobe malfunction. However, the site prompts you to enter your Facebook details, so you can see the video and 'personalise your experience'. The criminals then have access to your Facebook account.
As the jobs market continues to be tight, the job offer scam is still a real risk. Financial Fraud Action issued a warning about fake online job offers, that could turn innocent job hunters into unwitting money launderers.
The jobs offered are called things like "payment processing agents" or "administration assistants". They involve the payment of the proceeds of crimes into your bank account. You then pay the cash into an overseas account, effectively hiding the money and laundering it for criminals. In return you receive a share of the money. This is a criminal act.
These reached a peak this year after One Direction collected their Brit award (pictured) and announced a World Tour - and demand for the tickets exploded. The scammers set up fake sites offering tickets to sold-out gigs. Desperate fans trawling the net would stumble across them and take a risk. They handed over hundreds of pounds, the criminals took the money, shut the website, and ran.