Cambridge University clerk steals £285,000 to fund online gambling addiction

Jacqueline Balaam

Jacqueline Balaam used her position as a finance officer of Pembroke College in Cambridge to steal more than £285,000 from the college.

The 41-year-old from Fallowfield used the money to pay for a devastating addition to online gambling, which saw her place bets of more than £6 million over an eight year period. She admitted taking the money, and was jailed for 30 months.

The court was told that Balaam used her position as a purchase ledger clerk to duplicate invoices. The Daily Mail reported that the college would pay twice, and she would direct the second payment into her own account.

She would then tinker with the accounting system to cover her tracks. She did this 77 times over an 18 month period, withdrawing a total of over £285,000. She also stole £3,000 over four years from Girton Social Club - for which she was treasurer.

She admitted to police that she was addicted to an online bingo and fruit machine site called Jackpotjoy. She joined in 2006, and had been addicted for years. Even when she won money through her online gambling, she would plough it back into her habit.

Detective Sergeant Dave York, from Cambridgeshire Police's economic crime unit, told the BBC: "This is a case where the strength of an addiction to online gambling overcame the defendant's resistance to temptation."

Only a fraction of those who ever gamble will develop an addition, however, it still leaves an estimated 350,000 people in the UK with a gambling problem of some description. And while only a fraction of them will turn to crime to fund their gambling, it still leaves a handful of people jailed each year for serious thefts driven by a gambling addiction.

Earlier this month a former serviceman was sentenced to 16 months by Durham Crown Court, after he admitted stealing from customers while working for a security firm. He worked collecting takings from shops in a security van, and helped himself to almost £30,000. The court heard that it was completely out of character for the man, who was driven to desperate measures after losing everything to his gambling addiction.

Last month a gambling addict from Bradford was jailed for two years after stealing £230,000 from his employer to fund his gambling addiction. His theft was discovered when he was on holiday and another employee found a company cheque book in his desk.

Last September a car salesman from Manchester was jailed for ten months after handing himself in to the police and admitting stealing £45,000 from customer deposits to fund his online gambling addiction.

And last July a teacher from Staffordshire was jailed for two months for stealing £22,000 from his wife shortly after their wedding, to fund his addiction to the gambling machines at the betting shop. He had taken the money using two of her credit cards, and she only grew suspicious after giving him a hug and finding a roll of bank notes in his back pocket.

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