A FRAUDSTER who carried out a lottery scam costing almost £40,000 avoided jail and was ordered to pay back just £900.

Employee Donna Berwick decided to try to pay off her debts and make some money by stealing lottery scratch cards and collecting the winnings.

She would take them from her place of work, a Shell garage on Maypole Road, Tiptree, (pictured) by the pack and collect the fraudulent winnings from shops around Witham.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2014, Berwick stole £22,484 worth of scratch cards belonging to Chand Soni, who ran the franchise at the garage.

Between June 2014 and January 2015 she claimed £16,436 in scratch card prizes causing loss to Camelot UK Lotteries Ltd.

She admitted one count of theft and one of fraud.

Michael Crimp, prosecuting at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday, said: “In 2014 Mr Soni conducted a financial review and realised they were making a significant loss on lottery scratch cards.

“The garage purchased packs from Camelot and received a small commission for selling them.

“Winners were paid out by retailers and reimbursed by the National Lottery.

“Extensive inquiries revealed the defendant was stealing scratch cards, whole packs were being stolen.

“When a winning card was discovered she would take the card back to the garage to claim the prize.

“The packets were then activated.”

After this point any other winning cards from the pack could be collected elsewhere and Berwick 47, of Alan Road, Witham, was found on CCTV to have visited retailers near her home to collect the winnings.

Sarah Steggles, mitigating, told the court Berwick had an anxiety disorder and claimed she had not acted alone, although no-one else has been charged.

She said: “There is no doubt it was beneficial financially to her.”

During a raid at her home scratch cards were found stuffed under her bed.

Recorder Gerard Pounder sentenced Berwick to eight months for theft and 12 months for fraud but suspended both for 18 months.

He ordered her to carry out 200 hours unpaid work, put her under supervision for 18 months and ordered she repay compensation at £50 per month until the amount reaches £900.

There will be no proceeds of crime application but Mr Soni and Camelot can launch civil claims for compensation.