Gambling-addict finance boss, 35, who got free VIP trips for being such a good customer as he spent £1m stolen from employer is jailed for four years
- Steven Girling lived like a millionaire and quaffed Champagne in five-star hotels
- He plundered £1million to fund gambling addiction after being wooed by firms
- Girling, from Costessey, Norfolk, blew £50,000 a day in a three year spree
A high-flying finance chief who plundered more than £1million to feed his online gambling addiction was today jailed for four years.
Steve Girling, 36, of Costessey, Norfolk, secretly spent his employers’ cash on web slots and roulette and spent up to £50,000 a day.
The father-of-two was so popular with online bookies that he was rewarded with free VIP trips to encourage his custom.
He drank champagne in five-star hotels and entertained pals with freebie tickets for races including Royal Ascot, the Derby and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.
Steven Girling with his wife Rashael on their way to Norwich Crown Court before he was sentenced for stealing £1million from his employer to find his gambling addiction
Girling, who admitted theft, was even flown out on an all-expenses-paid horse racing jaunt to see the Dubai World Cup, a court heard.
Judge Stephen Holt told Norwich Crown Court: ‘These thefts were skilled, professionally planned and executed.’
The court heard how Girling moved cash from sports education firm, Premier Education Group (PEG), where he worked as a finance officer, to his own accounts from March 2014 to October 2017.
He would bet £50,000 a day with three online gambling firms on slot machines and roulette while pretending to be at work in his home office.
Steven Girling (pictured with NFL cheerleaders at Wembley) said he was left on the brink of suicide after British gambling firms targeted him aggressively
He lost £18k in one gambling session – only to later be rewarded for his custom with VIP trips to horse racing meetings at Ascot and Cheltenham.
Girling was also treated to VIP tickets to see American football at Wembley, received tickets to his local team, Norwich City, and was given seats to see Everton, where his daughter, now 13, presented the man of the match award.
At the Total Eclipse race day at Sandown Park in Surrey, he was even selected to choose the course’s best turned-out horse.
Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said Girling found himself in a situation where he had the ‘keys to the sweet shop’.
To avoid detection, he transferred money from the company’s account to his own account, which was ‘masquerading’ as a franchisee’s account.
He and his wife Rashael (pictured together) travelled to five-star hotels in Dubai and entertained friends on VIP tickets at races including Royal Ascot (pictured)
He also took charge of making payments which he diverted to his own account.
PEG had to spend £30,000 on consultants to untangle the criminal web Girling had woven, after he initially refused to help the firm work out how he had stolen the money.
Mr Ivory said: ‘He did a number of things to cover up what he was doing.
‘His activities survived three audits of the company’s accounts.
‘It was sophisticated enough to fool external auditors.’
Girling was arrested in February last year after confessing to wife Rashael, 41 – and she told his bosses.
Girling was sentenced today at Norwich Crown Court (pictured)
He pleaded guilty at Norwich Crown Court to theft in November.
The court heard that of the £1.1m theft, Girling had also put £20,000 into ISAs for his children, spent money on a holiday, bought a house and was also suspected of paying off his wife’s parents’ mortgage with the ill-gotten cash.
His barrister, John Farmer, told the court how his client fully admitting his crime but wanted to warn others of his plight ‘as a vehicle for deterring others from gambling’.
Mr Farmer admitted: ‘There is no money stashed away. It is gone.
‘The driving force was one of addiction.’
Before his sentencing, Girling told how his use of web casinos spiralled from a promotional offer of free spins and that he was left feeling suicidal.
‘I feel bookies should have a better duty of care to customers,’ he said.
‘It must have been clear to them I had a gambling problem yet no one asked if I was okay.’
Despite his betrayal, Rashael has vowed to wait for him when he gets out of prison.
Girling has paid back £112,000 and is selling his home to repay more.
Mr Farmer said more would be paid back in the future.
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