A MAN will has been sentenced to a year in jail after stealing more than £86,000 from a former employer.

Daren Howarth, 46, of Cressing Road, Braintree, admitted theft from his employer whilst working as a booking agent in the office of Excellent Connections Limited, a taxi company in Braintree.

In May 2014, he made up a fake taxi driver to allocate jobs, got other drivers to do the jobs, and then pocketed the cash by using a phantom account.

Howarth continued to use this system until April 2016, collecting £86,683 in total.

He admitted the charge at the first opportunity and was sentenced at Chelmsford Crown Court on Tuesday.

Evelyn Hicks, mitigating, said: “He has got a gambling addiction which came to the fore when his father died in 2014.

“He made a full admission to police immediately so there were no suspicions on anybody else.

“It was not the most sophisticated way of taking money but it was planned and the planning is accepted by the defendant.

"This is a man whom has got dependent children and he is more than aware that he may be put into custody but I ask that the sentence shows some reflection of the general remorse this man has shown.

“He has got a new job and his employer says he is an important member of the team.

“£86,000 is a huge amount of money which he wishes to try and repay to his former employer.

“The probation services says he is unlikely to reoffend and he has shown true remorse.

“He is trying to go to Braintree gambling anonymous to make sure he does not go back to gambling again.

“If a suspended sentence was hanging over him it would mean that even if he commits a minor offence he would be back before the court, and perhaps it would give him the opportunity to try and pay back some money.”

Passing sentence, Recorder Kenneth Carr, said: “You (Howarth) started working in April 2014 as a controller in the mini cab office and that job requires a huge degree of trust.

“I accept you will not have been keeping up with the amount of money you took but it is a substantial amount.

“In addition to there being a huge degree of trust there was also a degree of planning because you set up an account for a fake driver.

“I accept that you are a man with no previous convictions but I do have to regard the fact it went on for a serious period of time.

“Regrettably I cannot suspend the sentence and you will be in custody immediately.”

Howarth will spend six months in prison before being released on licence for a further six months.