A SHOP worker has been spared jail after costing a store £20,000 by stealing scratch cards.

Ex-employee Aron Skarott stole dozens of lottery scratch cards from the Spar store in Marine Parade, Southend.

The 27-year-old’s crimes were discovered by the store owner, Paul Thompson, after UK National Lottery operators Camelot contacted him saying a large amount of scratch cards had been activated within three months from his store.

Mr Thompson reviewed the times they had been activated and checked his staff rota to find out who was working at the time.

CCTV footage showed Skarott, of Burnaby Road, Southend, activating the cards on several occasions and hiding them under the till.

Mr Thompson contacted the police, who then attended Skarott’s home.

Cyrus Shroff, prosecuting, told the court: “Police attended the defendant’s home address and found three bags of scratch cards, along with more than £3,000 in cash, and he was arrested.

“Mr Thompson has said that the total amount that his actions have cost the store is £20,980, due to him having to pay Camelot the value of the cards, and has had to take out loans and use his own funds to keep the store up and running.”

Barry Kogan, mitigating for Skarott, said his client has been a long time sufferer of depression and regretted his actions.

Mr Kogan said: “The defendant is deeply ashamed of himself and bitterly regrets what he did. He has apologised to Mr Thompson for letting him down so badly when he put his trust in him.

“The defendant can offer a repayment of £8,700 on this day, and is keen to make amends for his actions.

“He is a father of three children, all under six-years-old, who he looks after regularly, and it’s my case that he be granted a suspended sentence so he can maintain that relationship and continue working to pay back the money he took.”

Judge Samantha Leigh handed Skarott a 12-month suspended prison sentence, along with 200 hours of unpaid work yesterday at Basildon Crown Court.

Addressing Skarott, she said: “It is my view that the most appropriate sentence is for you to remain out of prison so that you can continue working in order to repay back at least some of the funds taken from Mr Thompson, to ensure his business can be kept going.”