THE wife of a builder funnelled more than £5,000 from her husband’s business to fund her addiction to online bingo websites.

Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court heard that Denise Postgate contacted customers to ask for payments up front and gave her personal bank account details instead of the business bank account information.

When customers attempted to contact builder Gary Postgate – Denise Postgate’s husband – to ask when the work would be completed, she intercepted calls and told them his van was broken, that family members had been arrested, or had gone missing and eventually that he was in hospital with a “serious and potentially life-threatening illness”.

Lee Poppett, prosecuting, said three victims paid Mrs Postgate in excess of £5,000, between October and December 2018.

Two of them had a trusted relationship with Mr Postgate and had previously had work carried out by him.

He said: “One complainant has known Gary for a number of years and had built up a great deal of trust with him.

“She approached him for a quote for work to be carried out on rental properties and Mrs Postgate contacted her and told her that a proportion of the money would need to be paid up front to cover materials.

“She paid £1,500 to Mrs Postgate and agreed a date for the work to be completed.

“Despite trying on a number of occasions to contact Mr Postgate, her calls never seemed to connect. She did eventually contact Mrs Postgate via text message who came up with a number of reasons why the work had not yet been completed.”

Mr Poppett said the complainant was “genuinely concerned” for Mr Postgate when she was told he was unwell in hospital and made arrangements for another builder to carry out the work.

He added: “When she asked for the materials to be given to the other builder she was continuously given excuses by Mrs Postgate as to why that couldn’t happen.

“Her husband eventually went to the address to get them and found that Mr Postgate was at home.

“It’s fair to say that he was truly shocked because he had never been paid – unfortunately the money had been paid to Mrs Postgate.”

Mr Postgate said in a statement that he believed the couple were financially secure and that Mrs Postgate had her own money.

He added that it was very much a surprise to him and it had had a massive impact on his business and his finances.

Denise Postgate pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by false representation between October and December 2018 at a hearing yesterday.

Jaxon Taylor, mitigating, said Postgate had struggled with the loss of her mother in 2015 and turned to gambling to escape her grief in 2016.

He said: “She says she found it difficult to talk about her feelings and when she was introduced to online bingo websites in 2016 she found some release on there.

“She went online and found that she was able to lose herself for periods of time.

“You would not ordinarily associate bingo with gambling or huge losses.

“The initial losses were of £20 or £40 but she started to play more often and for longer periods of time, she started to invest more money and eventually got to a stage where her own money was not enough to manage the bills and her every day living expenses.

“It snowballed into taking out loans and credit cards. This took place over two years and of course you have heard that things started to unravel and she created more problems for herself.

Mr Taylor went on to say that the events had caused a “considerable rift” between the family.

He added: “Her daughters are not speaking to her because of what she has done and the impact it has had on their father, Mr Postgate.

“He is the person who has had to make good on the frauds that have been committed.

“In terms of it being a fraud, she is not employed by the company but she is the wife of the person who owns the company and it was money that was taken on the back of work being carried out by the business.

“It was spur of the moment with very little planning and it was always going to come to light that money had been taken for work that needed to be done.

“It was opportunist, she didn’t really think about it, it was a quick fix to the problems that were getting on top of her.”

Postgate, of Lingfield Green, Darlington, was given an 18 month community order with 25 rehabilitation activity days.

She must also pay a victim surcharge of £85 and court costs of £85.

Gary Walker, chair of the bench, said: “Consider this to be a turn around time of your life and good luck for the future.”