Boss stole from company next door to save his failing business

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A boss tried to save his own failing business by stealing top of the range barbecues from the company next door and selling them on eBay.

But Thomas Smith – who stole barbecues worth nearly £8,0000 – was rumbled on May 22 when the boss of Garden XL, Igor Vasiliadi, arrived at his warehouse at 5.45am and saw torchlight.

Jim Clare, prosecuting, said there was an “always locked door” separating Garden XL and Smith’s Maxitrade.

Mr Vasiliadi noticed a barbecue was out of place, heard a noise from the far side of the adjoining door and went round to speak to Smith.

Mr Clare said Mr Vasiliadi described Smith as “shaky and nervous” when he asked him if he had seen anything suspicious.

Two days later Mr Vasiliadi not only did a stock check but received a phone call from a customer cancelling a barbecue order because he had found the same thing £40 cheaper on eBay.

Checks were made and the eBay seller was Maxitrade.

Mr Clare said 26 barbecues worth a total of £7,924 were stolen.

Garden XL reported the thefts to police and also contacted a logistics company, which confirmed it had handled three or four parcels containing barbecues on behalf of Maxitrade.

Police checked Maxitrade’s eBay sales and 14 customers provided serial numbers for their barbecues which matched those originally delivered to Garden XL.

Another customer reported buying a barbecue from Maxitrade when “a man called Tom” got it out of his vehicle rather than his business premises.

Mr Clare said Smith had a key to the “always locked door” and a second door linking the two business premises.

Smith (48), of Kimblewick Lane, Spalding, pleaded guilty to burglary and theft on dates between April 30 and May 25 this year.

Magistrates sitting at Grantham on Thursday decided their powers were insufficient to deal with the case and sent Smith to Lincoln Crown Court to be sentenced.

Magistrates heard Smith will also face proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act at the higher court.

Solicitor Giles Tyas, for Smith, told the court: “He committed this offence in a somewhat misguided attempt to keep his business going.

“He previously owned a business that had gone bankrupt and it was not something that he wanted to go through again.”

He said Smith is now working in a factory on the minimum wage and doesn’t believe his family will be able to survive if he is sent to prison.

Presiding magistrate Peter Dolby said the case is going to the crown court because of the “level of planning” and length of time involved in committing the offence.