South West Wales

Anthony Johnson's Llanelli care home theft to keep post office afloat

A man who stole £115,000 from a care home, to keep afloat a post office branch he ran with his wife, has been jailed for 18 months.

Anthony Johnson, 63, was employed by the Ael y Bryn care home in Llanelli to look after its finances.

Johnson, of Llandybie near Ammanford, admitted theft, forgery and using £115,242 knowing it had been stolen.

He ran Ammanford post office with his wife Lorraine, 54, who received an 18 month suspended jail term.

She admitted using money knowing it had been stolen and was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Anthony Johnson, who was employed as an administrative assistant, stole the money from the care home by making out cheques to the post office or his company Beauty Spot Cosmetics, Swansea Crown Court heard.

The offences occurred between 27 November 2005 and 1 November 2007.

Johnson forged entries on cheque book stubs to make it look as though he had been paying suppliers to the care home, the court was told.

Mark Spackman, prosecuting, said at one stage Johnson borrowed £25,000 from care home owner Chelliah Yoganathan and later repaid him with money he had stolen.

The court heard that Anthony Johnson had previous convictions for false accounting when he ran a different post office.

Mr Spackman said attempts were being made to retrieve the stolen money under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Huw Rees, defending, said he had repaid £26,240 and was in a position to repay the remaining amount.

Lorraine Johnson sobbed in the dock as she awaited sentence and at one point the judge told her to leave the court so she could calm down.

Her barrister Frank Phillips said the case had had a huge impact on the former post office manager.

She was not aware of the precise mechanism by which her husband extracted money and that not all the money was for her direct benefit, the court was told.

Judge Peter Heywood said she was "less culpable" than her husband.

He sentenced her to 15 months in jail, suspended for 18 months, and ordered that she complete 200 hours of unpaid work.

'Serious offences'

The judge said Anthony Johnson had been a highly trusted employee at the care home and Mr Yoganathan had given him signed, blank cheques to pay bills with.

"But because of financial pressure on the post office you again turned to dishonesty in an attempt to keep the post office afloat," said the judge.

"Sadly, you have previous convictions for similar offences in relation to a post office.

"These are serious offences. A high degree of trust had been placed in you."

The couple, who have been separated for some months, are set to return to court for confiscation proceedings.

A Post Office spokesman said it was not appropriate to comment on a previous sub-post master who has not been involved in running a post office for the past three years.