A HAMPSHIRE man became “addicted” to defrauding his employers out of tens of thousands of pounds as he tried to claw back £20,000 of personal debt.

Martin Sheen had been working at the Fordingbridge branch of Elliotts Building Merchants for 11 years, working his way through from an apprentice until he became a member of the sales team.

Then, in July last year, Sheen, of The Bartons, Fordingbridge, watched his boss enter his password when carrying out a customer refund, and began entering fake refunds and wiring cash to his own account.

In five-and-a-half months, Sheen entered 97 false transactions, totalling £23,072, Southampton Crown Court heard.

Prosecuting, Unyime Davies told the court that Sheen, 29, began working for the firm in 2005, and had worked his way up to part of the internal sales team.

She said: “The actions of the defendant were only realised when security ran a standard check on refunds at the 14 branches. Between January and June 2017, £3,000 was given in refunds. Between July and December, this totalled £25,000, of which £23,000 was Mr Sheen.”

Mitigating, defence barrister Joanne Chester told the court that Sheen saw it as an easy way to get rid of his debt.

Sheen pleaded guilty to theft and his sentence was deferred until December to allow him to pay off the debt.