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Home Medway News Article
A mother of three lost her home, her husband and almost lost her freedom after an online gambling obsession spiralled out of control.
A court heard Collette Smith, 40, took out several payday loans in her husband's name without telling him while she was trying to hide her addiction.
But despite racking up £16,000 of debt with payday loan companies, banks and other borrowers, she could not keep up the repayments and her deception was discovered by her husband Dennis.
He found out about the fraud when he started getting threatening letters and calls about the debt he owed.
Direct debits for monthly outgoings, including council tax and other utility bills, were not paid and he went to his bank to ask why.
It was only then he discovered some bank statements had been hidden from him by his wife of 16 years. The couple are now divorcing.
"She tells me she and her husband were very happy until this happened and it has put too much upheaval on the parties and they have separated..." - Natalie Brown, defending
Smith, of Weston Road, Strood, was charged with fraud and appeared before Medway magistrates for sentencing on Monday after pleading guilty at an earlier hearing.
Debbie Jones, prosecuting, said Smith had built up debts with payday loan companies, such as Wonga, and had been gambling on internet sites.
She added: "Mr Smith was totally unaware of it. He started to get phone calls from debt collectors to his mobile and as each day went by he found more and more debt."
In a statement read out in court, Mr Smith said he was now working seven days a week so his home is not repossessed before it could be sold to pay off the debts.
Ms Jones added: "Mrs Smith has a serious gambling problem and the couple are now going through a divorce."
The court also heard Smith had got into debt with Argos and owed £755.
Natalie Brown, defending, said: "She struggled to cope and borrowed the money as there was a gap in their finances, a cash flow problem. The loans were easy to access and she could get a loan in 15 minutes. She spent it on gambling.
"She tells me she and her husband were very happy until this happened and it has put too much upheaval on the parties and they have separated.
"She is very sorry for the distress this has caused her family and she has stopped gambling."
Magistrates gave Smith a 16-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years, and told her to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay £755 compensation to Argos and £85 costs.
Chairman of the bench Janet Cherrison said: "We hope you get the help you need."
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