A supermarket boss who pocketed cash she claimed she was donating to a wounded soldier and racked up more than £6,000 in mysterious ‘customer refunds’ has been found guilty of fraud.
Alison Potts, commercial manager at Sainsbury’s in Altrincham, carried out hundreds of cash refunds between March 2010 and February 2011 even though customers were not present during the transactions.
Potts, of Bailey Walk, Bowdon, also ordered staff to give her £200 and then £300 from the tills which she said she was going to give to the family of an injured soldier whose grandmother was an employee at the store.
A jury at Manchester’s Minshull Street Crown Court took five hours to find Potts guilty of two counts of fraud and two counts of theft.
She was cleared of a further two counts of theft.
The 51-year-old’s original trial was dramatically halted in September 2012 when she admitted taking the £200 and £300 from tills but she later retracted her plea and the trial had to start again with no media until its conclusion.
Potts, who had worked at the store for 25 years, claimed she carried out refunds without customers present as she was ‘slow’ and ‘untrained’ and would give shoppers their money back before processing the returns when she was less busy.
But the court was told how Potts would log in to tills for just a few minutes at a time and often put through refunds – mainly for bottles of wine – at a rate of more than one every 30 seconds, often billing more than £100 in less than 15 minutes.
Prosecuting, Alex Leach said: “You were the commercial manager of the store, you were familiar with the IT system, you were an intelligent and experienced member of staff.”
Potts signed off 254 refunds worth more than £6,000 at the Altrincham store, while counterparts at stores in Denton and Hazel Grove put through just £182 and £72 respectively.
Colleagues raised concerns over Potts’ collection for a wounded soldier when the family had still not received the proceeds three months on.
It was eventually given to them by another member of staff, who was told by Potts to take the money out of the till when he confronted her.
Potts told the court she had been keeping the collection bucket in her locker and had not produced the cash because the fundraising was ‘ongoing’.
She said: “It was not hidden. I was waiting for donations from members of the night staff who had told me they wanted to contribute.
“I took the collection bucket away because it didn’t need to stay out.”
Potts, who has since left the company, was also found guilty of a second charge of fraud for pocketing £80 on expenses for eight London Underground ‘Oyster’ cards.
She had taken money for the cards from seven colleagues on a staff training day in the capital but did not attempt to return the expenses to her co-workers.
She will be sentenced on February 12 following the production of pre-sentence reports, which Judge Bernard Lever her would provide one last chance to explain her crimes.
He said: “It would be very much in your advantage to explain what was going on in your life and what made you behave in the way the jury have found you did behave.
“If you do not explain it I’ll just have to decide it was a case of greed and high-living.”