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Worker stole pounds 220,000from pharmacy owner.

A 22-year-old former police officer entrusted with the finances of a Swansea pharmacy cheated the elderly owner out of more than pounds 220,000, a judge heard yesterday.

Nathan Didier Rasmussen stole at such a rate he had to develop a VAT fraud to top up the company's finances.

The loser, Mary Elizabeth David, 74, told police she had looked forward to a hard-earned retirement. But Rasmussen's thieving had left her physically ill, overdrawn at the bank and feeling her life had been ruined.

Rasmussen, of Cwmclais Road, Cwmavon, Port Talbot, admitted nine sample offences of theft and asked Swansea Crown Court to take into account 110 similar offences. Each represented a cheque drawn on the account of The Kingsway Pharmacy for his own benefit.

Rasmussen also admitted nine offences of making a false instrument - the cheques themselves - and three of making a false VAT return.

He was jailed for 30 months.

Philip Harris Jenkins, prosecuting, said Mrs David had owned several pharmacies including The Kingsway.

Rasmussen began working for her on Saturdays when he was a schoolboy and gradually became more and more involved in the business. By April 2002 he was employed full time and became responsible for banking takings, filling in VAT returns and paying suppliers and staff.

By now Mrs David was so trusting she would leave pre-signed cheques with Rasmussen for him to fill in later as required.

Unknown to Mrs David, Rasmussen already had a chronic gambling addiction and was about to divert huge amounts of money to local bookies. During the following year he was to gamble pounds 750,000, some of which was recycled winnings.

The court heard that as the money drained from the business Mrs David noted a lack of financial growth but otherwise did not appear to suspect what was happening.

In July, 2003, she decided to retire and sold her businesses. Rasmussen made regular visits to her as he 'tied up any loose ends' in the finances.

In fact, said Mr Jenkins, by this stage Rasmussen was continuing the thefts by replenishing the pharmacy's accounts via false claims for VAT repayments from Customs and Excise, who repaid pounds 35,000 before becoming suspicious and blocking a third claim.

This money, too, had been stolen by Rasmussen and Mrs David, whose name was on the VAT forms, was 'almost certain' to face a claim for repayment from Customs and Excise.

Mr Jenkins said Rasmussen had paid the cheques into his own account, then into the account of his girlfriend, Jenny Davies, a teacher, and then the account of a friend, Nick Davies. He told both the income was from successful gambling.

All told, he had stolen pounds 223, 844.

As the crime spree unfolded Rasmussen began to make partial confessions, initially telling Mrs David of the VAT fraud and offering to repay her at the rate of pounds 500 a month. But nothing was ever repaid.

He then wrote to Customs and Excise confessing.

After he was arrested by police all the original cheques were traced and placed before Rasmussen, who admitted the true extent of his thefts.

The court heard that, by then, Rasmussen had been accepted into the Metropolitan police force as a constable. He resigned soon afterwards and now odd jobbed as a builder.

The court also heard Rasmussen was now broke and not in a position to pay anything back to Mrs David.

Rasmussen's barrister, Jim Davis, said, 'He said it was so easy to do (steal) that he just carried on. He gambled it all away.

'He says he feels dreadful for what he has done. There is nothing he can do, realistically, to put it right by Mrs David.'

Judge Michael Burr told Rasmussen, 'These are serious matters, this is a gross breach of trust.

'You knew precisely how the business was run. It is no excuse to say the cheques had been pre-signed. Maybe the victim has occasion to regret signing so many cheques.'
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 5, 2005
Words:662
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