Cambridge postman pleads guilty to fraud scheme

Saranyah Sukumaran  - News Reporter 9 November 2009

A Cambridge postman executed an elaborate mail fraud involving abandoned Cambridge University Press textbooks, eBay and counterfeit postage.

Local postman, Ian Thompson, 53, was warned by Cambridge magistrates that all sentencing options remained possible, after he pleaded guilty to swindling £411 worth of postage from Royal Mail.

The court was informed of Thompson’s grand scheme, which involved setting up an eBay business using academic books found in a skip and consequently using his position at Cambridge sorting office to send out the parcels for free.

Hugh Cauthery, prosecuting, described how Thompson, while on his rounds discovered 300 text books in a container on the Cambridge University Press site. These books, worth up to £20 each, were sold on eBay for between £1 and £3. He added a postage charge to the orders, but used his knowledge of the Royal Mail sorting office to obtain free postage by printing labels using an out-of-date account.

Mr Cauthery said, “He put the parcels in the right bag for the right part of the country to bypass the checking system.

The average cost of the postage was £1.50 and he did it for nine months, sending 274 packages. When interviewed, he admitted the charges, saying: ‘You have got me banged to rights’.”

Robert Milson, in defence, said that Mr Thompson of Fitzroy Lane, Cambridge had worked at the sorting office and had paid a high price for his dishonesty.

He justified this with the claim that he had lost out on a £19,000 voluntary redundancy pay-off when he was forced to resign, whilst his pension pot had been docked by £709.

The profits earned from the eBay scheme were meant to help his daughter through university, although the profits would be minimal.

Mr Milson said, “He has suffered a very large financial penalty. He has also lost his good name and that stings him.”

The books were on their way to be pulped – they were in no way for sale. He thought it was a waste and that he could make him some money. But he got a bit greedy and thought he would increase his profits.”

The case was adjourned for preparation of reports and Thompson will return to court for sentencing on Thursday 5th November.

Chairman of the bench, Steven Claydon, said the breach of trust resulting from the fraud meant all the options, including committal to Crown court were open.

Saranyah Sukumaran  – News Reporter