A SENIOR manager with BT who cheated his bosses out of mobile phones worth up to £78,000 was upset over commission payments, a court heard.

Andrew Milligan, 48, was supposed to dispatch more than 120 iPhones to one of the telecom giant’s business partners, Burnley Crown Court was told.

Instead the £70,000-a-year account director pocketed all but a handful - and sold a number of them off via eBay, say prosecutors.

Father-of-five Milligan, of Ribchester Road, Clayton-le-Dale, escaped a jail term after pleading guilty to a theft charge, relating to a period from May 2016 to June 2017.

He was given a 14-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, by Judge Andrew Woolman.

Milligan must also carry out 200 hours' community service and will face a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing on June 12.

Passing sentence, Judge Woolman said: “It was greed which led you to this offence.”

Stephen Parker, prosecuting, said BT had a working relationship with a firm called EMR, which had ended. But as a goodwill gesture BT agreed to supply them with a number of iPhones.

Four were eventually received by EMR but dozens more remained outstanding. A manager there later questioned what had happened to the rest.

Mr Parker said Milligan had created and sent seven false internal invoices to EMR, for phones worth between £11,000 and £17,000. But EMR never received the handsets.

He told the court that the defendant had given away some to friends and sold a number on eBay.

Milligan later resigned from his post, when queries were raised over the phones, and he was later arrested, the court heard.

Mr Parker said Milligan had two dishonesty convictions, for customs evasion and fraud, dating back to 1991 and 1994.

Daniel Prowse, defending, said his client and his colleagues were in dispute with BT over commission they claimed they were owed after “making millions” for the company. He insisted 20 phones were sent to EMR.

He said this did not excuse the defendant’s actions but explained why a man with an “unblemished 25-year history” had become involved in offending.

Milligan was married and supported two young children and three from a previous relationship, said Mr Prowse, as well as caring for his elderly parents, so any prison term would have a major impact.