A RECRUITMENT consultant wiped away tears after he was spared an immediate prison sentence for stealing more than £30,000 from a longstanding friend who had employed him and given him shares in his company.

Southampton Crown Court heard that even when times were difficult at the company, Ben Holder had ensured that Sam Wilson would not go without his wages.

However, he didn’t realise that he was being ripped off by Wilson who he had known for ten years and trusted.

Prosecutor Rod Blain told Southampton Crown Court how Mr Holder ran Everest Recruitment which provided temporary staff for other firms, with Everest running the payroll and clients paying them through invoices.

The scam was uncovered when a customer contacted him over an invoice involving an employee who wasn’t there at the time.

“Mr Holder then discovered what had been going on,” said Mr Blain, outlining how Wilson had manipulated the system by inventing fictitious jobs the temporary workers were supposed to have done and diverting the cash into his own bank account.

“It went on for about two years involving 200 transactions.”

As a result, Wilson stole £30,259.10 from the company, with a loss to the business of more than £42,000.

When challenged, Wilson immediately confessed what he had done and resigned.

In an impact statement, Mr Holder told police how he regarded Wilson as a close friend and had always been there to help him, making sure he received his salary even when it was to his own detriment.

Mr Blain said the theft represented a grave breach of trust and was a lengthy course of conduct.

Wilson, 37, of Southampton Road, Romsey, admitted theft.

In mitigation, Alistair Wright told the court of Wilson’s financial problems after his marriage had collapsed and his efforts to “keep the wolf from the door.”

His parents would assist in repaying the cash and his shares, for which he had received no dividend, would be sold.

“There is no suggestion the money has been spent on self gratification but used to ensure those around him didn’t suffer.”

Giving him a two-year suspended sentence coupled with a 200 hours of community work, Recorder Maria Lamb accepted Wilson began working for Mr Holder in 2009 and he had not been dishonest from the outset.

“But it was an utter betrayal of the trust placed in you. You allowed your finances to get out of control and your predicament snowballed. I am satisfied your remorse is genuine.”

Wilson must return to court in October for a confiscation hearing.