Crooked Comet worker Michael Tonta jailed after being caught on camera swiping £10,000 of stock
Michael Tonta admitted stealing from Comet
A convicted thief who managed to land a job with a Canterbury electrical store has been sent to prison for stealing again.
Michael Tonta, of Keyworth Mews, Canterbury, admitted swiping £10,000 of stock from the now defunct Comet store in Sturry Road - although prosecutors believe it could have been more.
CCTV cameras caught the 32-year-old assistant and a gang of crooks helping themselves to TVs, washing machines and Bose speaker systems in December last year.
Electrical chain Comet had gone into liquidation a month earlier, but staff were still employed at some of the premises.
Prosecutors said that during the 45-minute video, tags were removed from expensive items before they were taken from the store.
At one point, Tonta – who later claimed he was put under duress to take part - is seen patting one of the thieves on the back as the gang make numerous trips into the store to steal the goods.
Police were only alerted to the wholesale thieving when a member of the public raised the alarm, prosecutor Paul Tapsell told the hearing.
Comet worker Michael Tonta stole £10,000 of stock
"The video also clearly shows the defendant patting one of the others on the back – which is hardly the actions of somebody acting under duress," he added.
Tonta's lawyers said the assistant has admitted his part in the theft – but claim he did it under duress from the gang.
"The video also clearly shows the defendant patting one of the others on the back – which is hardly the actions of somebody acting under duress..." - Paul Tapsell, prosecuting
Crown Prosecution Service lawyers revealed how £1,500 cash was paid into Tonta's bank account the day before the thefts.
Judge Simon James said at an earlier hearing: "He has 10 previous convictions for offences of dishonesty, including theft from an employer, yet he was able to gain employment.
"There must be some concern whether he was entirely frank and made full disclosure to his employers."
Now another judge at Canterbury Crown Court has jailed Tonta for seven months.
Judge James O'Mahony said: "There was some pressure and threats made by people coming in the store and you assisted them in taking your employer's property."
The judge said property up to £20,000 was taken, but since Comet had gone out of business it could not be verified precisely so he would accept it was £10,000 of property involved.
Judge O'Mahony said: "This was you helping yourself with others to your employer's property, which was a significant breach of trust.
"There was some pressure, but your duty and loyalty was to your employer and there was plenty of time for you to stop this.
"Of course you did not do that. You helped them to help themselves to the property of your employer who had employed you for some time.
"You have a serious record of dishonesty, including theft from your employer and to prison you must go. I cannot suspend this sentence."
Stories you might have missed
- Click here for more Canterbury news
- Click here for more news from across the county