A post office worker has walked free from court after admitting that she stole more than £60,000 to fund her gambling addiction.

Leanne Pickering deposited the cash in her own bank account after making ‘ghost payments’ during the nine-months she was working in her friend’s business.

The 34-year-old eventually owned up to her theft and offered to pay back £30,000 – the figure that she believes she had stolen from the Post Office.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Pickering had been working at the Post Office in Crathorne, near Yarm, which was run by a couple she had known for several years.

Uzma Khan, prosecuting, said the defendant stole a total of £60,704.28 from the business between August 2021 and January 2022 when her offending came to light.

She said Pickering walked into Stockton police station to admit stealing from the business and told them she used the cash to gamble.

“She made a number of ghost transactions whereby her own private bank card had been used to deposit cash into instead of depositing into the Post Office account,” she said.

“Afterwards, she sent a text message offering to pay £36,400 back to the Post Office.”

The court heard how Pickering was planning on paying back the money after she had a ‘big win’ but searches of her bank accounts showed she had deposited more than £110,000 into online gambling accounts.

The Northern Echo: Crathorne Post OfficeCrathorne Post Office (Image: Google)

Pickering, of Ash Lea, Picton Village, North Yorkshire, pleaded guilty to one charge of theft from an employer.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, urged the judge to follow the recommendations in his client’s pre-sentence report and that she would welcome the opportunity to take part in a mental health treatment program.

Recorder Anthony Kelbrick said: “You suffer from a gambling addiction which is an illness. You are a mother of vulnerable children and it’s against that background that I have to sentence you for this very serious theft.

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“The level of trust in you was high and you abused that.”

The former Post Office worker was sentenced to two-years in prison suspended for two years and ordered to take part in a two-year mental health treatment program and attend 25 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

Ordering her to pay £30,000 in compensation, the judge added: “It’s very sad these people have lost out due to your actions, they may take you to court for the rest of the money, as may the Post Office.

The court had heard how the rural post office remains temporarily closed.