Grief and debt led to a Johnston man abusing his position at a local garage to dupe a customer into paying cash into his personal account.

Jamie Picton, of Glebelands, pleaded guilty to two fraud charges when he appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates on Tuesday morning.

The court heard that after sales manager Picton, 37, was working at the BMW Sytner Group, when Jani Williams called the garage about repairs to her Mini at Slebech on May 4.

He told her that while the engine would be covered by her warranty, the work would cost her £2,000, and provided his own bank details for payment, without providing a receipt.

Mrs Williams later transferred £28,000 into the same account when she decided to purchase a new vehicle, but questioned the situation when there was no sign of her car, which led to Picton’s deception being discovered.

In a statement read to the court, Mrs Williams said: “I feel a fool for having shaken his hand when he had stolen from us. I was worried that we would never get that money back.”

Sian Vaughan, prosecuting, told the bench that the BMW Sytner Group had refunded Mrs Williams’ £2,000, and had lost out on the £489.29 cost of repairing the engine.

She added that Picton had a previous conviction for stealing from an employer.

Mark Layton, defending, told the court that Picton was prepared to reimburse the garage and pay for the repair of Mrs Williams’ vehicle, as it would be inappropriate to charge her.

He added that Picton had been receiving support for mental health, bereavement and financial issues, as he had suffered severe depression following the death of his father.

“Mr Picton’s father had just passed away. There was a funeral debt that could not be paid and Mr Picton saw this as the only way of meeting that expense.”

The court heard that the father-of-three had also received counselling for gambling issues.

Mr Layton added that Picton was remorseful for the breach of trust and abuse of his position, and had made full and frank admissions.

Magistrates sentenced Picton to six months in custody, suspended for two years, and ordered him to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and a 15 day rehabilitation activity requirement.

He will also pay £2,489.29 in compensation, £85 court costs and a £115 surcharge.