A CAR salesman, labelled a “serial fraudster” by a judge, cheated his boss out of £15,000 in order to feed a life-long gambling addiction.

Christopher Barber emailed a customer with his own bank details after agreeing a sale for his bosses.

But the 48-year-old was rumbled when his unsuspecting victim received confirmation of a finance deal – which Barber set up in an attempt to cover his tracks.

Barber owned up to the fraud and parted company with the car showroom, for which he had worked for more than a year.

He was given an 18 month suspended prison sentence at Southampton Crown Court yesterday.

The court heard how Barber conned the money to feed his gambling addiction, which had plagued him throughout his adult life.

Defending, Michael Standing told judge Gary Burrell how Barber’s addiction had “cost him everything”, including his wife and children, who had moved to Dubai.

The court also heard how Barber had previously served an eight month prison sentence for a similar fraud in 2015, in which he conned customers out of a total of £21,000.

He also used his wife’s details to secure three loans, totalling more than £40,000.

According to Mr Standing, the latest fraud took place in November, shortly after his two children, aged 12 and 13, had visited.

Mr Standing said their return to Dubai had left Barber thinking about “what could have been”.

He subsequently threw himself into work, causing him to miss his regular sessions with Gamblers Anonymous.

Barber quickly relapsed.

“It’s an illness,” Mr Standing said.

“It’s like alcoholism, once he has that first taste he cannot stop. He has lost everything as a result.”

Barber initiated the fraud shortly after agreeing to sell a Hyundai car to a customer at Everton Garage, near Lymington

The customer initially asked to pay in cash, but Barber asked for a bank transfer.

Barber then emailed over his own bank details, instead of the company’s.

He later called his victim to say there had been a mistake and to send any incoming post relating to the car to him.

But the victim became suspicious when he opened a letter to discover the confirmation of a finance deal – something he declined at the showroom.

He reported the incident to the company’s manager.

The court heard how Barber confessed to the fraud and had paid back £2,500 from his salary at current employers.

Sentencing Barber to an 18 month suspended prison sentence, and ordering to pay back the remaining £13,000, judge Gary Burrell said: “You’ve lost everything. You only have yourself to blame.”

Barber, of Beaumont Road, Totton, was also ordered to do 300 hours unpaid work.