A SALESWOMAN who stole more than £30,000 from her own clients to play online bingo has been jailed.
Married mum Lynn Barnes, 58, of Westbourne Avenue, Blackpool, was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to two charges of theft.
She took the money which represented final payments from two customers on properties in Bulgaria.
She spent sums of more than £23,000 and £7,000 within days of the money clearing her bank account.
Preston Crown Court heard some of the amounts were used to pay online gambling sites.
Richard Archer, prosecuting, said a woman interested in buying property in Bulgaria found one she liked with the Blackpool-based Black Sea Dreams agency.
The theft charge related to a final payment of £23,720.47.
Mr Archer told the court that in June 2008, the woman received an email from Barnes detailing problems the agency was having with developers.
It said because of the problems final payment should be sent directly to her by cheque, and to be payable to her, not the company.
He said: “Mrs Barnes had told her it would help to pay directly to her because it would quicken the process.”
Some of the money went on to be used by Barnes to pay the Tombola online gambling site and payments to a loan company.
The woman concerned received no confirmation of her transaction being completed.
In the end the woman contacted the police.
The court heard the defendant’s husband Tony, who tried to spearhead a Bulgarian-based takeover of Blackpool Football Club six years ago and ran Black Sea Dreams with his wife, had no knowledge of the missing cash.
The second victim of theft was a man who had already bought one property through the agency and returned to them when looking to buy a second.
Towards the end of the transaction, the man was told a final payment of £7,122.24 would be needed towards the cost of furnishing and maintenance.
Some of his money was used to pay online bingo.
Chris Hudson, defending, provided a bundle of references on behalf of the defendant. He said a lot of people held her in high regard.
He said Barnes was not a “habitually dishonest” woman.
He said: “She felt she could earn money and provide a service.
“She would contend Bulgaria is a country of institutionalised corruption.
“Tax evasion is part of the national ethos and also there are mafia influences. She would contend that in dealing with people in Bulgaria, you need to retain funds as a bargaining ploy. She took the money to use as a weapon.
“She would say the agency was well-run and had many satisfied clients.”
Barnes has since been working for a company selling electricity to business clients, the court was told.
Judge Robert Altham told the defendant only an immediate prison term was appropriate.
He said Barnes had sought to hide what had happened to the money by lying.