SNEAKY social club steward Alan Eastlake siphoned off thousands of pounds for himself in a gross betrayal of trust.
Eastlake was held in high regard by the club where he had worked for nearly 20 years.
Bosses at Ashington’s Northern Social Club trusted the 40-year-old to collect and bank takings, stock the bar, pay staff and look after the accounts.
But when his personal finances hit the rocks and he struggled to pay his family’s everyday bills, Eastlake started helping himself to the club’s money.
By the time he came clean about the amount he had stolen, more than £24,000 was missing and the club almost went out of business.
As Eastlake was given a suspended prison sentence, Northern Social Club secretary David Fish, who considered Eastlake a friend and had even helped him out financially in the past, told of the impact of the breach of trust. Mr Fish said in a statement read at Eastlake’s sentencing hearing at Newcastle Crown Court: “This has had a devastating effect.
“The club almost had to close and had to reduce the hours and number of staff members.
“I feel myself and the club have been betrayed and I am disappointed, especially having regard to the support we have given to him in the past.
“This has caused unwanted grief and stress.”
The court heard Eastlake began working at the club in 1993 and was appointed steward in 2002.
In November 2010 the club became aware he was having personal financial problems and he was allowed to cash-in some of his holiday pay.
In April 2011 an audit revealed there was a shortfall in the banking of £1,095. Eastlake said he didn’t know where the money was but he was given a disciplinary warning and re-paid the cash.
During a further audit in November 2011 the club’s paying-in book could not be found. Eastlake said he kept it at the Post Office but was told by Mr Fish he must return it.
Prosecutor Michael Graham said: “On the night of November 8, Mr Fish was in his office at the club when the defendant appeared at the door with the paying-in book in his hand. Visibly shaking, he said to Mr Fish ‘It’s over £22,000 now’. When Mr Fish asked him what he was talking about, the defendant said he had not banked for three weeks and did not know where the money was.”
Eastlake, of Hesleyside, North Seaton, near Ashington, was suspended and the completed audit revealed a total of £24,369 had been stolen between April and November 2011.
He initially denied responsibility when interviewed by police but later pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position.
Judge James Goss QC imposed a 12-month suspended prison sentence with 300 hours of unpaid work and a curfew.
The judge said: “You had up to this time been a hard-working loyal servant of the club.
“This was a serious offence in breach of trust. However, on the other side of the coin you did not spend any of the money on anything other than trying to meet your family commitments.
“References show you are otherwise a decent and honest man and you are of previous good character.”
Tony Cornberg, for Eastlake, who is married with children, said: “This all occurred because the cost of life’s necessities were not being met. It was gas bills and the like, not gambling debts or anything like that.
“He was telling himself he could put it back, but it unraveled and snowballed.”
The club almost had to close and had to reduce the hours and number of staff members