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Hollister worker Erika Martins from Eltham steals £60k from designer store at Bluewater shopping centre in Greenhithe

A shop assistant has been jailed for stealing more than £60,000 from a designer clothes store at Bluewater shopping centre.

When arrested, Erika Martins had almost £18,000 in cash in her bedroom. Another almost £11,000 was found in her VW Polo car.

The 21-year-old "cash lead" at Hollister was originally accused of salting away more than £100,000, but the prosecution accepted a figure of £63,580.

Hollister worker Erika Martins stole thousands of pounds from the firm

Martins, of Crown Woods Way, Eltham, south east London, admitted theft and acquiring criminal property between January 1 and November 3 2012.

A judge heard she manipulated the goods return system and either took cash from the till or diverted it into her own bank account.

Her dishonesty was discovered after a customer saw Martins take money from the till and put it in her pocket.

She wept as she was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment at Maidstone Crown Court.

Recorder Jones QC said he would keep the term as short as he possibly could and admitted: "Perhaps so short some will criticise me for being so lenient."

The court was told it was "a crime of opportunity". She accepted her guilt at the outset and had the matter hanging over her for almost 18 months.

Martins was said to have not used the money for a lavish lifestyle. She was "absolutely mortified" to find herself in court and terrified of going to prison.

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Recorder Jones told her: "It is an extremely sad day to find yourself before the court. You have lost your good character and brought shame on yourself and your family.

"You exploited your position of trust while working at Hollister. It is a large sum of money and you must have realised at the time it was entirely wrong.

"I am satisfied you used the money for your own benefit and, perhaps, for that of your boyfriend. The size of the thefts and fraud is such I am afraid I am constrained to pass a sentence of imprisonment."

A confiscation hearing will be held in July, but the judge heard that with the amounts seized from her bedroom and car and another £28,755 in her bank account, it would cover the total taken.

Martins' boyfriend at the time - Lykeem Kallo-Francis, 21, of Rochester Road, Gravesend - denied acquiring criminal property, but a jury was discharged after failing to reach verdicts.

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