Fake refunds paid for Oxfam volunteer’s drink habit

Oban Sheriff Court in Albany Street

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A trusted Oxfam volunteer logged fake till refunds so he could fund his drinking habit.

Nicholas Holden, 42, appeared before Oban Sheriff Patrick Hughes last week pleading guilty to coming up with the fictitious refunds as part of a fraudulent scheme between June 18 and July 1, 2018.

He was ordered to pay it all back so the charity would not be left out of pocket and had his sentenced deferred for six months to be of good behaviour. The sheriff also wants to see a report from Addaction.

Sheriff Hughes told Holden, from 3E Ulva Road in Soroba, that he had committed a breach of trust and that it had cost him his ‘good name’.

The court heard how Holden, who has learning difficulties, had volunteered at Oxfam in Oban’s George Street for four or five years and was almost full-time, being one of 20 volunteers there.

He was trusted as a key holder and regularly covered when managers were on leave.

It was when the manager returned from a week’s holiday last summer that she checked the shop’s accounts and immediately noticed an increase in refunds. Usually there is one refund per month but during her time off there had been eight.

She also noticed the amounts refunded had been rounded up to the nearest pound. Refunds went from £40 to £100 and one for £52.25, totalling £390.25.

The manager was concerned and suspicious and investigated. She was able to see that at the time Holden was logged in under his ID number but other staff numbers had been logged in until after each transaction then went back to Holden’s ID.

The staff diary confirmed on those days of the transactions Holden was in the store.

A few days later the manager and other staff confronted Holden, asking for the shop keys back and telling him to leave and not return. He admitted two of the fraudulent transactions at that point.

Holden was later arrested on suspicion of fraud, denying the accusations to police but there were inconsistencies in his account, the court was told.

Eddie Thornton, defending, said his client, who had never been in trouble before, had been given substantial responsibilities at Oxfam that were ‘quite frankly far too much for him’.

Two years ago Holden developed an alcohol abuse problem. ‘There was a culture of drinking while on duty at the shop,’ said Mr Thornton. ‘There was no attempt to nip it in the bud. The more responsibilities he was given, the worse his drinking became. These transactions happened to fuel his addiction.’

Mr Thornton said Holden, who had handed him the money to pay back, had an ‘extremely supportive’ family and had made efforts to address his problems.