Fraudster tricked tills with discount sticker

Stole £50 worth of goods with 7p barcode

Updated: 
Claire Dunleavy

A mother of three has escaped jail after admitting using a 7p 'reduced' sticker to repeatedly steal goods.

Claire Dunleavy, 34, used the sticker at an Asda store in Burslem to pay just £15.66 for items that should have cost £69.02.

Staff became suspicious after problems were reported with a self-service scanner she had used. When she returned the next day, they were on the lookout, and soon spotted that Dunleavy had apparently scanned 22 loaves of cheap bread at the self-service scanner - but had none in her bags.

She admitted having carried out the scam on two successive days, and produced the 7p barcode from her bra. However, because nobody could be sure what she'd taken on previous occasions, she was only charged over the final episode.

After pleading guilty to two charges of fraud by false representation and breaching a conditional discharge, she was sentenced at North Staffordshire Justice Centre to a 12-month community order and ordered to pay £340, plus £53.36 in compensation to Asda.

"None of the items taken from the supermarket were luxury items. It was just to maintain the family," said Tony Cooke in mitigation.

"Somebody said to her that the reduced stickers do not trigger the weight mechanism on the self-scan till and it overrides it. Because of the problems they were having, because of the needs of the family, she just could not resist."

Just two weeks before the incident, however, Dunleavy was given a 12-month conditional discharge for stealing children's toys worth £170 from Toys R Us.

Similar self-scan scams are widespread. Last summer, we reported on the case of City worker Nicholas Long, who was caught scanning a pile of groceries in as loose onions. After admitting to having done it on 20 occasions, he was sentenced to 180 hours of community service, with £250 costs.

Last year, a survey from Vouchercodespro.co.uk revealed that nearly one in five people has stolen something using a self-service checkout - although nearly two thirds said that this was either by mistake, or because the machine had refused to scan.

Even staff aren't immune to temptation, with Asda manager Edward Coughlin jailed recently for stealing £50,000 from self-scan machines to fund a gambling addiction.
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