A man has been jailed for stealing more than £50,000 worth of equipment from the fire service and selling it on eBay.
Michael Todhunter, 50, stole a hoard of items over 17 years including vital PPE, with defibrillators, respirator masks, breathing equipment, firefighter axes and floodlight kits among the haul.
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Mr Todhunter stashed the stolen goods in his garage and sold it on eBay, cashing in from PPE supplies that were desperately needed by colleagues battling the Covid-19 pandemic last year.
Two theft and fraud
The 50-year-old, who had served with Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service for more than 30 years, admitted two thefts and one fraud at Carlisle Crown Court.
Prosecutor Kim Whittlestone said the fire service was alerted to the thefts by a specialist firm.
The firm was regularly selling equipment to the service and realised the kit it had supplied was being sold online.
Serial numbers on respirators matched those on equipment for sale and an investigation traced the account to Mr Todhunter.
His home in Cockermouth was then raided by police on 15 October last year, with officers and senior firefighters left “shocked” by the quantity of stolen kit that was found.
In a statement read to the court, senior fire service chief Stuart Hook said: "The impact of his actions have been far-reaching and are still ongoing.
"We have suffered a significant financial cost to replace the stolen equipment, as well as the aftermath of colleagues feeling so let down."
‘A breach of trust’
Mr Hook said the loss of the equipment had affected the ability of the fire service to carry out its day-to-day operations.
PPE kit was also particularly hard to source at the time of the thefts due to the pandemic and had been brought in to protect firefighters.
Sean Harkin, defending, said Mr Todhunter felt genuine remorse and had now lost the career he began when he was just 19.
He was described as a man of “positive good character”, who raised funds for charity and worked on disasters including the Cockermouth flooding in 2009 and the Keswick school bus crash the following year.
Judge Nicholas Barker noted the thefts had been assessed as being at least having a value of £50,000, but the actual value of the stolen kit was likely to be much higher.
Mr Todhunter was handed a jail sentence of 16 months.
Sentencing the defendant, Judge Barker said: "This was a determined campaign by you.
"This was no opportunistic, fleeting event... this equipment, removed from the service and recovered from your garage, was taken over an extensive period of time.
"I have to bear in the mind the nature of the organisation you stole from.
"It was a breach of trust over many, many months.
"There must have been many, many individual acts of removal...In my judgement, it is simply not possible to pass a sentence other than an immediate custodial sentence."
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