Addict Stole £300K to Fund Bingo Habit

41 year old mother of two, Jacqueline Balaam, was a trusted finance officer at Pembroke College, until her secret was dramatically revealed and she was jailed for her crimes.

She stole nearly £300,000 from Pembroke College (one of Cambridge’s most famous colleges), so that she could fund her online gambling habit.

The court where she was jailed heard how she had first opened an online bingo account in 2006, and over the next 8 years, paid £324,425 of her own money.

She would win up to £15,000 at a time when playing games, but would keep re-playing the wins instead of cashing them in.

She put on bets to the staggering amount of £6 million, but only withdrew £87,600.

Sarah Walker, prosecuting, said Mrs Balaam started working at the college in October 2009, but it wasn’t until June 2012 that she had started to duplicate invoices and pay money into her own personal account.

By the time she was caught she was making payments into her account 4 times a week.

Her crimes were revealed when the college did an internal audit and discovered that she had stolen just under £300,000.

Ms Walker said: “She told the police that she had a gambling condition and that she played online on a laptop given to her by a social club where she volunteered as a treasurer.”

Balaam admitted falsifying invoices at the college, as well as pleading guilty to defrauding Girton Social Club.

Mark Shelley, mitigating, said Balaam had been “a trusted member of the college” who was led astray by her addiction.

“Her reason for her offending was an illness. It wasn’t greed, it was simply gambling, and she has taken steps to address her problem.”

However Judge Gareth Hawkesworth said that she had made no attempt to get help with her addiction.

He said: “You seemed to cover your tracks with some skill in the way you manipulated your records.

“It is clear that your taking of this money was prompted by an addiction, and it is equally clear that such was your addiction that you made no real profit from it, and no money was spent for the benefit of your family.

“I cannot suspend the sentence because of the sheer scale of what you did, and the length of time which you proceeded with it. You are an intelligent women, and you were well able to seek help during that period, and you did not do so.”

Judge Hawkesworth sentenced Balaam to 30 months in prison.

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