A PEMBROKE Dock woman who stole nearly £7,000 from supermarket giant Tesco through a scam involving National Lottery winning payouts has narrowly avoided jail.

Jenna Bowen, 21, of Pennar Court, pleaded guilty to nine separate charges of theft from the Pembroke Dock branch of Tesco when she appeared before Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court on January 7.

Sentencing was adjourned until last Tuesday (January 28) for a pre-sentence report.

The court heard that between August 2 and October 4, amounts ranging from £415 to £997.90 were taken from the branch’s cash office.

Police received a report from the branch on November 4 after Bowen’s dismissal following a disciplinary hearing during which she admitted to the thefts.

Prosecutor Ellie Morgan said the office could only be accessed by store managers and Bowen was an acting manager at the time of the thefts.

The court heard Bowen was able to take the money by altering slips printed out from the store’s National Lottery machine.

The slips showed how much money had been paid out on winning tickets each day. Bowen altered the figures to make it look as if the machine had paid out more than it actually had and pocketed the difference. In total, she stole £6996.10.

During interview Bowen told police she had “panicked” after receiving letters from bailiffs relating to unpaid bills and a loan from when she was living with a former partner.

Bowen claimed she had been left with the debt and she had used the stolen money to pay it back.

James Subbiani, defending, said his client had worked at Tesco since she was 16, “very much enjoyed working there” and was building on her career.

He said Bowen had made a “monumentally foolish decision” to get herself out from “between a rock and a hard place”.

“To a greater or lesser degree she has ruined her life – good employment in the future will be difficult to achieve,” he added.

Passing sentence, the chair of the magistrates’ bench said: “We could have imposed custodial sentence but we are suspending that today.”

Bowen was sentenced to 26 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, 200 hours unpaid work, and ordered to pay £6996.10 compensation, £80 towards prosecution costs and an £85 victim surcharge.