A FAMILY left on the brink of bankruptcy said justice had been done after the ringleader of a shoplifting scam was jailed.
Stacey Lajoie fought back tears in court as a judge sentenced her to two years in prison for her part in stealing thousands of pounds in a ‘supermarket sweep’ from the Sood family.
Lajoie, 31, had worked for the family for 11 years, going on to become duty manager at Falcon News, in Lake Road, Portsmouth.
But, unbeknown to the Soods, Lajoie was helping herself to cash from the ATM – which was stocked up by staff at the shop – as well as giving away thousands of pounds worth of free groceries to her friends in what a prosecuting barrister called an ‘illegal supermarket sweep’ at the start of the case.
Lajoie’s crimes were uncovered after shopkeeper Linda Sood noticed discrepancies in the ATM and her son checked the CCTV.
They found Lajoie was giving away multi-packs of cigarettes, mobile top-ups, gas and electricity card top-ups, and free food and drink.
She was able to get away with it as the Sood family left her in charge every Sunday while they had a break.
Portsmouth Crown Court was told her thefts amounted to more than £18,000 between July 2013 and March 2014, but prosecutor Barry McElduff said the thefts may have been going on well before that.
The Soods, who built the business up from scratch over 30 years, paid out £236,000 to keep the business afloat, including selling their other shop in Waterlooville, remortgaging and cashing in a private pension.
Mr McElduff told the court: ‘The defendants were treating the shop and stock as if it was their own.’
Sentencing Lajoie, of Lake Road, to two years, Judge Claudia Ackner said: ‘None of this scale of theft would have been possible without the lynchpin activity of Lajoie.
‘It was brazen in its frequency and scale. It nearly brought the Sood business to the point of failure.’
Credit was given for Lajoie’s early guilty plea.
Five other people were sentenced yesterday for their part in the crimes after they all pleaded guilty to shop theft.
They were each given six-month jail sentences, suspended for a year.
They were: Pauline Jones, 53, of Temple Street, Portsmouth; Jack Perryman, 22, of April Square, Portsmouth, who must also do 200 hours of unpaid work; Kristy McLaren, 28, of North Street, Portsea; Kimberley Duff, 30, of April Square, Portsmouth, who must also do 120 hours of unpaid work; and Gillie Kranenburg, 27, of Hotwood Court, Middleton, Manchester, who must do 150 hours of unpaid work.
The cost of their offending to the Soods came to a total of around £5,700.
Defending Kranenburg, barrister Sarah Jones said her offending was the result of ‘economic disadvantage’, while Perryman had expressed ‘genuine remorse’ and was ‘naive’, the court heard.
Lajoie’s partner Pagan Barter, 21, of Garfield Road, Portsmouth, was given a 12-month community order, including 100 hours of unpaid work, for possessing criminal property after £970 was found in her bag.
Jones, Perryman, Kranenburg, and Duff must pay £200 compensation, with McLaren paying £100.
Donna Stanley, 35, of Copnor Road, Portsmouth, will be sentenced next week after being found guilty by a jury of theft.
After the hearing, Mrs Sood said: ‘I wish she (Lajoie) had got more.
‘But I’m glad it’s all over.
‘We will never be able to recover what was taken but justice has been done as far as the police and crown prosecution service can do.’