A fish and chip shop manager, who stole £141,000 from the successful business to clear his troubled son's drug debt, has been jailed for fourteen months.
Gary Chapman, 52, of Fairway Avenue, West Drayton helped found the business with his friend of thirty years and was trusted to record the income and bank the takings.
He pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to stealing the sum from 'Jack's' in Hillingdon Road, Uxbridge (pictured) between June, 2010 and July, last year.
As a 20% shareholder in the company Chapman's actual benefit was calculated as £116,000 and his matrimonial home has been made subject to a court-ordered restraint as confiscation is pursued.
The first-time offender, who opened the shop in 1999 with business pal David King, was so successful the £250,000 start-up loan was repaid in five years.
“The guilty plea is a genuine indication of his remourse and shame,” said Mr. Alastair Smith, defending. “The burden has weighed heavily on him.
“When the police showed up at his premises he did not seem agitated, as if he accepted the day was coming, and he kept meticulous details of the money he had taken.
“He was aware that what he was doing was wrong and was concerned about that fact.
“He did suffer from a constant moral nagging and had a vain hope that one day he would be able to put things right.”
The father-of-two, who also has two step-sons, is now divorcing his wife and his half of the matrimonial home has been valued at £51,000 for compensation purposes.
He immediately signed-over his 20% stake in the business when Mr. King discovered the thefts, which has been valued at £24,000, but Chapman claims his share is worth nearer £100,000.
“He has always worked in fish and chip shops and up until now has never stolen a single penny,” added Mr. Smith.
“Mr. Chapman dismissed his son just before these offences and his son disappeared from the local area.
“A group of drug users then approached him and said his son's thirty-eight thousand pound debt, plus interest, has transferred to him as far as they were concerned.
“They made it clear paying-off the debt was linked to the long-term welfare of the defendant and his son and he agreed to pay five thousand pounds a week.
“His first mistake was not to go to the police and his second was to take a twenty thousand pound loan from a loan shark and in this context the defendant started taking money.
“He noted it all down and hoped one day he would be able to pay it all back.
“He stole from the company in which he had dedicated over a decade of his life and now he has lost his good name and the assets he has built up.
“He has lost his marriage, his mental equilibrium and risks losing his liberty and has gained nothing for himself.”
Judge Paul Dugdale told Chapman: “You did it to benefit your son who had got himself into a lot of difficulties.
“The trouble I have is that this was an awful lot of money and a high breach of trust.
“This is a very serious offence of dishonesty that has to be met by a custodial sentence.
“You took cash out of that business and you kept in the safe at work a full record of all the money you had taken.
'In my view that shows a degree of understanding that the money was not yours and had to go back.
“I can reduce the sentence because of the unusual circumstances of you taking the money not for your benefit, but the benefit of your son and you kept a record of every penny.”
Chapman must also pay a £100 victim surcharge.