A former public schoolboy and manager of a posh wedding venue stole couple’s deposits to pay off his debts and buy drugs, a court heard.
Paul Hayes, 32, took cash which had been put down for marriages – and used it to cover rent and drug deals.
Hayes, assistant general manager at the Grade II Quayside Exchange in Sunderland, nicked the money because his £17,500 salary didn’t cover his living expenses.
The former pupil at the fee-paying Argyle House School had started using ecstasy and cocaine.
Hayes was rumbled when general manager Andrew Gevorkian counted out cash to pay a supplier in front of staff before placing it in an envelope in the safe on May 24.
When the money vanished Mr Gevorkian checked CCTV to find Hayes had disconnected the alarm system and the camera overlooking the safe before helping himself.
Hayes admitted theft of around £1,000 at Sunderland Magistrates Court which heard he already has eight previous convictions for theft.
Prosecutor Lee Poppett said Hayes had been on annual leave at the time and had no reason to be in the premises.
Mr Poppett said. “He accepted he went to the Quayside Exchange because he owed someone money.
“He turned off the CCTV. It was his intention to pay the money back, but unfortunately he did not.”
Further suspicions were raised when couples started contacting the High Street East venue who had booked weddings and functions.
A couple said they had paid £400 to Hayes on March 20, another had paid £295 on March 1 and a woman had paid £200 on March 21.
In total Hayes had taken £935 and admitted a sample count of theft from employer.
Mitigatior, Chris Wilson said: “Unfortunately, he committed a number of offences to discharge a debt to a drug dealer who put him under significant pressure, and, possibly duress.
“He was employed for seven years in a number of capacities. He had an opportunity for life to work for that organisation. He had the potential to become a director. Through his own stupidity, he appears before this court.”
Mr Wilson added: “He has an awareness that it was wrong. It was his whole intention he was going to make full repayment to the organisation. Put very simply, he was using the money of the organisation almost like a payday loan company.”
Sentencing Hayes to 18 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with 100 hours of unpaid work, chairman Bob Francis said: “You accepted money from customers and did not record it, therefore you caused the customers distress and the company you worked for will be getting a bad name.
“You have eight previous convictions for theft and we have read that you have not complied with court orders in the past.
“If you do not co-operate, you will walk straight to Durham. You are jolly lucky you aren’t going off there today.”
Hayes was also told to pay ?935 compensation, ?85 costs and ?80 victim surcharge. When the Echo approached him at his home, Hayes denied having been to court and said he knew nothing about the case.