Yodel manager, 56, stole phones worth £24,000 in a bid to pay off loan shark who lent her £1,000 – but was caught when bosses set up spy cameras at her office
- Julie Birchenough used a pay day lender to buy a car but debts quickly spiralled
- She was forced into a string of thefts, stealing a total of 24 phones from the firm
- Defendant intercepted them as they were to be sent out and hid them in her car
- She was busted when office cameras captured her stuffing phones in a shoe box
A Yodel manager stole phones worth £24,000 in a bid to pay off a loan shark – but was caught when bosses set up spy cameras at her office.
Julie Birchenough borrowed £1,000 from a lender she found in a newspaper advert, but when she was unable to repay the debt straight away, she was forced into a string of thefts.
The 56-year-old intercepted the devices at work as they were about to be sent out for delivery and then hid them in her car, Minshull Street Crown Court was told.
She was busted when officials installed spy cameras at her Oldham office, which captured her stuffing two Huawei phones in a shoebox before taking them outside.
Thirteen other devices worth between £500 and £1,500 were recovered from her home plus a notebook detailing possible ‘steal to orders.’ It is believed a total of 24 phones were taken.
Julie Birchenough, 56, intercepted the devices at work as they were about to be sent out for delivery and then hid them in her car
The defendant was sentenced to 12 months jail suspended for 18 months at Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester
Inquiries revealed Birchenough, who was entrusted with the safety of goods purchased by shoppers online, had severely got into debt with ‘astronomical’ interest repayments after she took out the pay day loan to buy herself a car.
She refused to name the loan shark but claimed she had been ‘pressured’ to stealing the phones to pay off her debts.
She has since fled her home and got a job in a fish and chip shop. Investigators found no evidence she had been selling the phones herself online.
Birchenough, now of Poulton-Le Fylde, Lancashire, admitted theft by employee and was sentenced to 12 months jail suspended for 18 months yesterday.
The thefts were discovered in August 2019 after she had employed by Yodel as a security manageress for ten years.
Prosecutor Harriet Lavin said: ‘Her role was to supervise the security team and maintain the safety of goods within the site.
‘She was employed to keep an eye on what people were doing. There were strict search regimes however the defendant was not subject to that as a security manager.
‘In August 2019, another manager was made aware of a significant number of lost parcels. The losses were high value mobile phones valued between £500-1500.
‘From further investigations, it became clear that the losses has all come from one trailer on the shifts that this defendant was working in when she was supervising.
‘A covert camera was placed in the defendant’s office. It was reviewed and the defendant was seen to be packing a large quantity of mobile phones in packaging before depositing them into a cardboard shoe box.’
The court was told how Birchenough’s loan shark was making demands when she was unable to pay back the £1,000 she borrowed after finding the lender in a newspaper advert.
The individual demonstrated ‘controlling and coercive behaviour’ and wanted her to steal more and more phones to pay off the debt, Miss Lavin added.
The court was told how Birchenough’s loan shark was making demands when she was unable to pay back the £1,000 she borrowed after finding the lender in a newspaper advert
In mitigation for Birchenough, who had no previous convictions, defence counsel Mark Fireman, said: ‘This is a woman who was put under significant pressure.
‘When her mother was alive they had access to a car and it was paid for via the Motobility scheme. However, when her mother died, the car was taken back.
‘She wanted a car, and she went to banks in the hope of getting a loan for a deposit but she was rebuffed and was forced to borrow from a loan shark.
‘He followed her and knew where she worked. He said she would have to pay back the money and she would have to steal from her employers to do it. He implied he knew of her family circumstances.
‘She thought six mobile phones would pay off the debt but was put under more and more pressure to take more phones. She’s not a sophisticated criminal and did not receive a penny.
‘Her outgoings and incomings remained remained the same but as a result of this, she lost her job and she was forced to move away from the area as this was the only way she could get away from the person placing her under this pressure.’
Birchenough was also ordered to complete 80 hours unpaid work.
The Judge Mr Recorder Michael Maher told her: ‘You had a job which has a high degree of responsibility and it was you who was trusted not to lose goods that were in transit.
‘You had a good track record and you were a trusted individual but you started stealing high level mobile phones to the value of £24,000.
‘You say you had taken a payday loan from a loan shark after you had lost your car which was paid for after your mother died.
‘The interest rates on that £1,000 loan spiralled out of control and you could not afford to make the payments.
‘Your defence say that the demands made by this faceless man in the shadows were coercive and threatening.
‘You have no evidence of you living a high life or of being a greedy individual, although that notebook does have cause for concern.’
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