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George Austin, from Canterbury, avoids jail for stealing from Maidstone vaping shop

A manager who stole almost £9,000 from a vaping shop has avoided prison.

George Austin denied taking the cash from Phoenix Electronic Cigarettes in the Royal Star Arcade in Maidstone over a nine-month period, but was convicted at Maidstone Crown Court.

The 24-year-old, of Ulcombe Gardens, Canterbury, tried to blame the bank when the money went missing.

George Austin stole £9,000
George Austin stole £9,000

His dishonesty also led to his area manager losing his job.

The court heard Austin’s role included him banking the cash takings at NatWest in the town, but he had failed to do so on 26 occasions between January and October 2016.

When questioned in November that year, Austin insisted he had paid the money in, but no receipts were ever received by the area manager.

After arrest, it was discovered from his bank statements that he was living “from hand to mouth” and did not have the cash to support his lifestyle.

Friends had lent him money from time to time, which was further evidence of money problems and motivation to “dip his hand in the till”, said prosecutor John Waller.

Austin stole the money while working at a vaping shop. Library image.
Austin stole the money while working at a vaping shop. Library image.

Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said when passing sentence that Austin had been convicted on overwhelming evidence.

“You were highly regarded,” Judge David Griffith-Jones QC told Austin. “The area manager described you as his go-to manager when he joined the company and set up procedures.

“When the matter came to light you chose to blame employees of the bank. There was a breach of trust. It is very regrettable that you chose to fight the case.

“The only real mitigation is your lack of previous convictions. A sentence of imprisonment is demanded – nothing less will do. But given your lack of previous offending I will give you one last chance.”

Austin was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours unpaid work. He will be subject to a tagged curfew.

Making a compensation order for £8,926, Judge Griffith-Jones said: “I see no reason why you should not pay back the sum you stole.”

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