A FORMER Panasonic employee who defrauded the tech giant of more than £55,000 in order to “pay off a drug debt” could still avoid prison.

Lisa Garland, of Lochinver, Bracknell, admitted to embezzling £56,585 from Panasonic over a period of two years when she appeared in Reading Magistrates Court in February.

The 42-year-old also confessed to stealing almost £800 from a charity her colleagues had raised funds for.

She expected to learn her fate at Reading Crown Court today but the sentencing was pushed back to May by Judge Heather Norton.

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Garland worked as a customer services supervisor at the tech company after being hired in March 2017.

From December 2017 to December 2019, she defrauded her employers by offering ‘refunds’ to family and friends who complained about Panasonic items.

Prosecuting, Robin Sellers said: “That role [of supervisor] gave the defendant the opportunity to offer refunds.

"It's in that position where the abuse of trust occurred.

“She was also arranging for electrical goods to be sent out when there was no complaint.

“The goods were sent out to her friends and family.”

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Her actions came to light when Garland, who was in charge of a Panasonic voucher scheme, reported some vouchers had gone missing.

This caused investigations to start and eventually resulted in police trawling through her bank account matching payments to the electrical goods which were sent out.

She was then arrested and interviewed by Thames Valley Police.

Reading Crown Court.

Reading Crown Court.

Mr Sellers added: “It was a rather sophisticated manipulation of the customer services system.”

Garland also admitted to stealing £779.90 from the Wear It Pink charity in October 2019.

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This incident occurred when she was taking part in a Panasonic charity event, but the money raised by the company’s employees did not find its way to the charity.

It was discovered after the charity emailed Panasonic saying they had not received the funds.

Summing up, Judge Heather Norton read statements from a report which suggested Garland was “vulnerable” and defrauded Panasonic in order to “pay off a long-standing drug debt.”

But she also said the Bracknell woman portrayed herself as an “intelligent and responsible person”.

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Judge Norton suggested these presentations of Garland “didn’t fit together”, making it difficult for her to decide whether to impose a suspended prison sentence or not.

After a short break, the defence and the prosecution requested the sentencing be adjourned until May so Garland can provide more information about her situation to the probation service.

Judge Norton told her: “I’m not prepared to sentence you [...] without some investigation into the account you have given.

“It could make a significant difference to the type of sentence that is given to you -- it is in your interests to cooperate with the defence team and the prosecution.”

Garland appeared at Reading Crown Court on Thursday, April 29.

Her sentencing will take place on Friday, May 28.

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