British woman sentenced for stealing to fund poker addiction

A British woman who confessed to stealing more than £26,000 from her work in order to support her poker addiction has been convicted and sentenced to one year in jail. Cindy Streets, a 21-year-old clerk at an Exeter travel agency and bureau de change, confessed to stealing £26,100 in foreign currency over the course of four weeks in order to feed her and her ex-boyfriend's addictions to online poker and betting.

After spending hours playing online poker and wagering on sports-betting sites with former flame, Paul Hocking, a gambling addict, Streets managed to max out five different credit cards. According to Streets, it was then she began to steal from her employers, Lets Go Travel, where she ran a bureau de change.

With the support of Hockings, she struggled to recoup their losses and repay the company without getting caught. She attempted in vain to cover her tracks by tampering with computer records, but the company caught on after one month when £2,000 in unused foreign exchange was not returned to the head office despite computer records suggesting it had been. Streets confessed after Lets Go Travel contacted the authorities.

When questioned by police, Streets admitted: "I made a stupid mistake and borrowed £1,000 from work to try to win back money. I lost the £1,000 and then the second lot I took was £6,000 worth of currency. I tried to use that to pay back the £1,000 plus my credit card but I got more and more into debt with online gambling. We did win £5,000 back at one stage but we wanted to carry on gambling to win back the full amount and then we lost the winnings."

Despite efforts by Streets' attorney, Stephen Nunn, to blame the entire mess on Hocking, Judge Graham Cottle told Streets: "This was an enormous breach of trust. You were entirely complicit in the gambling, doubtless hoping you would win enough to pay off your debts and reimburse your employers. That did not happen. In the real world it does not happen. There was some attempt made to cover up your dishonesty, but it brought only temporary relief. I find the particular use to which the money was put an aggravating feature of this case."

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