A thief who stole fishing equipment worth more than £30,000 and sold it online was netted by his boss in a DIY sting operation.
Shop worker Jonathan Strachan took the valuable fishing gear from Gerry’s Fishing and sold it on auction site eBay – unaware some of the items had been secretly marked with a UV pen by his boss.
Gerry Foote, owner of Gerry’s Fishing, Parliament Street, Morecambe, asked friends to act as stooges and buy the ‘marked’ gear, which was then sent back to him.
Gerry said: “I spent hundreds of hours marking the reels with UV marker with the date and time and got friends from all over the country to buy them and send them back to me.
“It felt wonderful.
“Once we had proved the link the police could access his ebay and paypal accounts and it was a proven crime.”
Jonathan Strachan, a respected angler, started working for Gerry’s Fishing six years ago.
Gerry said: “In 2011, I was told he was living a lifestyle that didn’t fit his wages but I said his finances were not my concern.
“Members of staff were concerned he was stealing from the till.
“A camera was put on the till and he was filmed for a long period of time but it’s very difficult to see someone lifting something from the till.”
Gerry found out that Strachan ran an eBay site where he would sell books and other items.
He said: “He boasted to one of the guys here, ‘look at this old fishing book I sold.’
“My manager told me, ‘you will have to look at this’. There was loads of fishing tackle on the site and it was obvious it was ours, because we sell specialised items.
“I would recognise stuff that had sold. It was mainly fishing reels which can sell for between £10 and £500.
“There was a substantial turnover on his eBay account.”
Gerry’s wife Barbara said: “For our family it has been a living nightmare. We had to find someone willing to help us and spend their own money which was quite a difficult thing to do.”
Gerry said: “The only positive thing is he is not here. I’m still in loss, not only hundreds of hours of work but tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket.
“I’m still aggrieved, but I’m just glad it’s over.”
Jonathan Strachan, 29, of New Street, Morecambe, pleaded guilty to seven charges of theft at Preston Crown Court and was jailed for 16 months.
PC Jo Clements said: “This was a betrayal on two levels which came completely out of the blue. Jonathan was a trusted member of staff and it has been difficult for Gerry and his family. Gerry found out some items were being stolen but he couldn’t prove anything.
“Friends randomly purchased the items which Gerry had marked with his signature, date and postcode. It was a huge investigation with ebay involving thousands of items but they were very co-operative.
“The sums involved total over £30,000. There will be a proceeds of crime hearing at a later stage. It was a brilliant result for us and Gerry.”