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South Tyneside home building site manager who stole £18,000 of bricks must pay back less than £4,000

A manager at a home building site who stole £18,000 of bricks has been ordered to pay back some of his ill-gotten gains.

Michael Russett betrayed the trust of his employer while working on a Barratt Homes development in Hebburn, South Tyneside. He organised the theft of materials to order, with other men helping and a low loader being used in an operation lasting hours.

Russett was found guilty of theft by a jury and a judge rejected his account that he had been paid £200 to turn a blind eye to the theft, which happened in January 2020. Last year, he was given a suspended prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court and now he has been back in court for a hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard the benefit figure of his crime, taking into account inflation, was £21,580 and the amount he has available is £3,858. He must pay that figure to Barratt Homes within three months or faces 28 days prison in default.

Sue Hirst, defending, said Russett is now receiving benefits and said his finances have been in a “fairly poor state”.

Last August, Russett, 49, of Gallgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, was sentenced to 18 months suspended for two years with 200 hours unpaid work and rehabilitation. He also faces Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings.

Vince Ward, prosecuting said during the sentencing hearing: “The defendant had a leading role by providing access to the site. Texts also indicate a leading role.

“He stood to gain significantly financially from the theft. He had a degree of responsibility as a site manager and there was a significant degree of planning. A low loading articulated lorry had to be obtained for the length of time it took to steal the bricks, which was the bulk of the morning.

“The prosecution say the goods were stolen to order. They are specialist goods which, in such bulk, can only be used for one purpose.

“The theft exposed others to risk but suspicion was directed towards the defendant almost immediately and exclusively.”

Jonathan Gittins, defending, said Russett had been out of trouble since 2014 and had no “relevant” convictions since 1998. He added: “He has suffered significant trauma in his life, having lost two children .

“He has had physical health issues and suffered a significant deterioration in his mental health. He found himself in difficulties with finances and took a job with a significantly lower wage.

“He found himself in a dire place, which pushed him to make these decisions.” Mr Gittins said Russett had previously started groundworks and carvery businesses but had to close them due to losses and is around £30,000 in debt. He added that he started working for a block paving company in July.

Passing sentence, Judge Penny Moreland told him: “You took a significant and leading role in organising that theft with others. You were on that site that morning in order to facilitate that theft. There had been significant planning because a low loader and van were required and men were required to load the bricks.

“You were the site manager, it was a responsible position and you bore a high degree of responsibility to your employer, which you betrayed. The value of the bricks was some £18,000 and they were stolen to order – stolen with a buyer in place.”

Judge Moreland added: of Russett: “He is an abuser of drugs and has no intention of stopping. The jury found he lied to the jury. I don’t think he has the slightest remorse or the slightest intention of abiding by the rules.”

View news Source: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/south-tyneside-home-building-site-29085659

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