Student jailed for cheating pools syndicate

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The Independent Online
A man who cheated five members of a football pools syndicate out of a pounds 2.3m fortune has been jailed for 30 months.

Cameron Baxter, 27, pocketed the pounds 5 stake money he had collected from five Scottish Power workers instead of handing it over to Littlewoods. The syndicate had the only winning line that week and would have won a jackpot of more than pounds 2.3m.

When Baxter, from Stirling, appeared for sentence yesterday at the High Court in Glasgow, Lord Ross, the Lord Justice Clerk, told him: "This is in many ways a tragic case not only for you and your family but for those affected by your crime. However, it does appear to me that it was a mean offence which involved a breach of trust."

Lord Ross said the amount of money which Baxter took had not been large, but the consequences for the victims were in some ways "catastrophic". He had "deprived them of winning a considerable sum of money".

However, Lord Ross accepted that there were mitigating factors. The court had heard that Baxter, a mature student at Stirling University, depended during the summer holidays last year on the pounds 35 a week he made as a pools collector.

He had got into financial difficulties after his car was stolen and had a couple of accidents with his family's car.

Baxter admitted forming a fraudulent scheme to obtain football pools stake money and to appropriate it to his own use when he appeared at the High Court in Edinburgh three weeks ago; that, while acting as a pools collector between 24 July and 10 September last year, he pretended to various people in Stirling that he would forward pools coupons and stake money on their behalf, and that he induced them to hand over completed coupons and stake money totalling pounds 216, embezzling the cash and failing to deliver the stakes and coupons to Littlewoods.

The five-man syndicate which missed out on the jackpot yesterday launched a court action to sue Littlewoods for the pounds 2.3m they would have won. Gordon Turner, John Ferguson, Donald McVean, Richard Syme and Owen Kelly, from Stirling, have raised pounds 30,000 to fund a private action, which was launched at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after Baxter was sentenced.

Cameron Fyfe, lawyer for the syndicate, said his clients believed Baxter was an agent of the pools company therefore it was liable for his actions.

However, Littlewoods has maintained previously that it did not employ collectors, but that they were agents of the clients.