Additional reporting by Chris Hunter
A company owner who lost thousands of pounds to a devious employee has spoken of his anger after the thief avoided jail time.
Kindly boss Alan Powley of Pyramid Screen Products in London Road, West Kingsdown, had even loaned £8,000 to employee Dean Jefferies, only for him to repay his boss' generosity by stealing a further £17,000.
Now Mr Powley says he is "absolutely gutted" after Jefferies- who has committed similar offences twice previously - walked free from the sentencing without even having to pay him back.
Maidstone Crown Court heard how Mr Powley had offered Jefferies a job on May 16, 2017, then entrusted him with the company's PayPal account - which he'd used to buy 250 items for himself.
It was Jefferies third conviction for theft by an employee, following previous cases in November 2000 and May 2003, the court heard.
Keith Yardy prosecuting explained that between March 21 and August 2018, he misused his employer's PayPal account to buy personal goods, totalling £16,926.18.
"Eight months earlier, Jefferies had asked for employment, explaining his sister was suffering from cancer. At that stage he was unable to employ him."
Jefferies made a subsequent request saying his sister had now died and he had to look after her son.
And it was heard how the thief was also given the post of website manager.
"Mr Powley trusted him, giving him access to the company's PayPal account to make business purchases, " he added.
In June 2018, another employee noticed "discrepancies" and it was discovered that Jefferies had been misusing the account.
"From March 21 to August 28, 2018, Jefferies had made 250 purchases, involving £16,926.18.
"He said he was truly sorry and apologised for causing distress or problems..."
"Mr Powley then asked Jefferies to pay the bill but received an apology for letting him down, claiming his father was unwell and had been in hospital but that he could not repay the bill, " he added.
It was reported to police in January the following year and when he was questioned by officers, Jefferies claimed he had permission to use the account.
Mr Yardy said: "He said he was truly sorry and apologised for causing distress or problems. There had been two earlier loans of £4,000 each made by the managing director."
The prosecutor revealed how in an unrelated incident Mr Powley had not paid himself for six months as a result of a company going bust owing £24,500.
Phil Rowley, defending, said: "There is no doubt Mr Powley was extremely generous."
Deputy Circuit Judge Andrew Goymer retorted: "That makes the conduct of the defendant all the more shameful because he was treated generously and that's how he has repaid him, he repaid him by stealing from him.
"He was loaned money and, whether or not he has paid it back is neither here nor there, but he proceeded to repay that generosity by stealing from him."
Jobless Jefferies, of Merton Avenue, Longfield admitted theft by an employee and received a 12 month jail sentence suspended for a year and was ordered to attend 25 rehabilitation sessions.
The judge told him: "You have previous convictions for the same kind of thing, this is the third time you have come before the court for stealing from your employer."
Speaking out following the sentencing, Mr Powley said he had lost faith in the criminal justice system.
"The sentence I'm disgusted with," he said.
"Four years ago this guy worked for me and he seemed a nice guy, really helpful, and all the time he was taking money.
"He was a likeable guy and I lent him money because he had problems. In the meantime he was filtering money out using the company credit card on eBay and other sites.
"We got him into court after four years and he pleaded guilty to all charges. He got a suspended jail sentence for a year and he's got to go to rehab for 25 days, but they didn't order him to pay anything back. It doesn't make sense."
"The sentence I'm disgusted with..."
He explained how he believed Jefferies had adequate means to pay back the money and that his accounts had not been fully investigated.
"They would see a trail if they did, he added. "He can afford to pay me back. The amount of time it's taken giving statements and it gets to court four years later, and this happens.
"It's a joke. I'm so gutted about this. Right at this moment after the year we've had I could really do with that money coming back.
"He should have gone to prison, he added. "It's four years wasted of my life.
Who is the victim here? It's ridiculous. If you can get this sort of sentencing you don't need to work for a living do you?"
"It's a joke. I'm so gutted about this, he should have gone to prison..."
He recounted how Jefferies had initially come across as trustworthy and skilled worker.
"The company he was working for went into liquidation, and I went to buy it," he explained. "He popped his head up saying he used to work for them. He had problems with his sister and I felt sorry for him.
"I took him on and everybody liked what he was doing. He was really good at what he did. It was always "if you want I can do that". He was the most helpful guy.
"So we ended up saying 'do you want to run the internet, do you want to run the paypal?' He took it all on, and then he took it all out.
"He's the best fraudster I've known and I've known a few. I come from the Old Kent Road and I'm that age."
He said the money should be transferred to your bank account, but it didn't happen..."
After the theft became apparent he said Jefferies used "stalling tactics" to avoid repaying money.
"I didn't hear from him, I said Dean what's happening? He said the money should be transferred to your bank account, but it didn't happen.
"When they raided his house they found lots of stuff he'd bought on eBay and they took him to the police station. He said 'Alan's such a good friend of mine'. "
And he said the sentence has only added insult to injury.
"It was absolutely gutting", added Mr Powley. "It's just a joke what they've done.
"They said compensation was not awarded due to insufficient funds, but if someone had done their job they would have found all that money.
"I'm so annoyed about it. He will look at that and laugh, and think 'I might as well do that again'.
"I've totally lost faith in the justice system. What can you do about it? He's pleaded and walked out of that court thinking that's a right result.
"He just lied and lied all the way through."