Conman targeted Morrisons supermarkets in Sunderland, South Shields and Jarrow under orders from loanshark
A conman went on a fraud tour of Sunderland, Jarrow and South Shields and stole more than £1,300 from different branches of Morrisons supermarket.
‘Loanshark stooge’ Septimus Stewart, 50, spent a month tricking coin machines at stores across the North East into paying out the cash, a court heard.
He claimed to be acting under the orders of a loanshark to whom he owed money after an issue with a parking ticket.
Stewart pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud by false representation at South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
Morrisons stores across the North East targeted
Prosecutor Rachel Glover said Stewart’s con involved using a Coinstar machine voucher that he had altered for his criminal exploits.
Over the course of May 2016 he toured the North East targeting machines at different Morrisons stores, including: Sunderland, Jarrow, South Shields, Birtley, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Morpeth, Killingworth, Consett and Cowgate.
A spokesman for Morrisons said at the time: “The defendant has caused a great loss to the store over the last month.
“Both in manpower and the resources we have had to provide to staff within every Morrisons store.”
Stewart a ‘stooge’ to the loanshark
Defence solicitor Gregg Stephens said: “Problems started when bailiffs came to his door trying to collect a debt and take away all of his belongings.”
The court heard that this stemmed from a single parking ticket.
Stewart was able to keep the bailiffs away by borrowing money to pay off that debt, but in turn found himself owing money to a loanshark.
“Having borrowed the money from the illegal money lender he then found that he couldn’t repay them.
“He was told he was going to work for them. Cash [from the machines] was then handed over to the loanshark until the debt was repaid.”
He argued that since 2016 Stewart has committed no offences and that the Coinstar fraud was over a relatively short time when he was a ‘stooge’ for the loanshark.
“I do not think it is particularly sophisticated as a result of the fact that on each occasion he was captured on the CCTV.”
Chairman of the bench Robert MacDonald told Stewart: “You will be pleased to hear the bench do not believe this has passed the custody threshold.”
Instead a 12-month community order was imposed which will include four weeks spent wearing an electronic tag on a curfew.
Having been spared jail, Stewart told the bench he would be ‘embarrassed’ if his daughter saw the tag being installed that evening, and asked if it could done the following day.
It was pointed out that the tag is a punishment and the magistrates said that it should be installed that day.
Stewart, of Portman Place in Newcastle, must also pay the full £1,327.64 in compensation to Morrisons.