A MARRIED couple who stole £37,000 from their employer to spend on lavish holidays have been jailed.

John Leslie Riley, 62, and Alan Stephen Shelton, 57, of Ashleigh Street, Darwen, stole from car parking machines at The Mall in Blackburn, where they had both worked for 19 years.

Manager of the car park, Shelton, and deputy manager Riley, stole the money by working side by side, with one opening the machine and the other acting as a lookout.

Prosecuting, John Close explained the couple then manipulated the transaction logs to avoid discovery.

They were found out after two anonymous whistle-blower letters were sent to company bosses.

Mr Close said: “Financial investigation officers discovered the pair had cash deposited in healthy bank accounts.

“They pair had also taken holidays totalling over £38,000 over a period of time and a wallet was found inside the home containing a number of holiday tickets.

“When asked how they could afford to live such a lifestyle, Mr Riley said his father had passed away leaving them some cash.”

Victim impact statements read out in court detailed how the actions of Riley and Shelton had caused a ‘climate of suspicion’ at The Mall.

General manager Loraine Jones said: “I broke down. I felt I was penalised for something that I didn’t do and that my reputation had been shattered.

“At the end of 2017 I had pneumonia and really made myself very poorly because of these two men.”

For Riley, Philip Holden urged for a lenient sentence, stating his client was a man of previous good character.

He said: “We have here two men with good characters.

“My client is a hard-working and well-liked individual. The chance that he will reoffend or appear in front of a court ever again is very unlikely.”

Defending Shelton, James Hayworth agreed that his client was unlikely to reoffend, saying: “This man is someone who has worked throughout his life. He is fundamentally a decent person who has let himself and others down.

“Any time in custody for this man would be a devastating punishment.”

Sentencing Shelton to 36 weeks and Riley to 30 weeks, Judge Simon Newall said: “You have caused damage, harm and distress in the lives and emotions and in some cases the health of people you have worked with. You have breached their trust over a long period of time.

“You had no other motive other than profit and personal greed - there were no exceptional circumstances.

“I do take into consideration, however, that both of you were men of previous good character. Neither of you are young and one of you has health problems. You have worked your whole lives and made an effort to continue to work even in the aftermath of this.

“But there will have to be a custodial sentence for this crime.”

Speaking after the sentencing, senior Crown prosecutor, Victoria Agullo said: “John Riley and Alan Shelton were clearly acting together to commit these offences in order to fund a lavish lifestyle, which was way beyond their means.

“When faced with the overwhelming evidence against them, they were left with no other option than to plead guilty.”