Auction valuer admits theft

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AN AUCTION house valuer panicked after misplacing an auction lot of coins – so he took another set to a pawnbroker to raise money to replace them, a court heard.

Mark Thompson, aged 38, realised the gold and silver coins – sent in for auction by clients, and valued at £10,000 to £12,000 – were missing at Sheffield Auction Gallery on Windsor Road in Heeley.

Despite ‘strenuous efforts’, including checking CCTV, he could not find them, Sheffield Crown Court was told.

So he hatched a scheme last May to recoup the loss by taking other coins to a pawnbroker and raising loans against them. He was advanced £500 for one gold coin, actually worth up to £900, and also cashed in four others.

But his crime was discovered when a customer asked why his coins had not been sold and Thompson was forced to confess. After an internal inquiry, Thompson was dismissed for gross misconduct and police became involved. The auction house said the effect of the wrongdoing had been ‘devastating’ and about £8,200 had to be paid out in compensation to clients. The auction house also lost an estimated £2,486 in potential sales commission. Thompson admitted theft and fraud.

Lisa Hardy, defending, said he had worried he might lose his job and panicked. “He simply should have come clean,” she said.

Thompson, of Carling Avenue, Worksop, was given a 12-month community order with 150 hours’ unpaid work and supervision.

After the case, Sheffield Auction Gallery director Elizabeth Dashper said “absolutely no clients were financially disadvantaged” by what she said had been “an unfortunate incident”.

“We have been in Sheffield since 1840 and nothing like this has ever happened before. Clients can continue to deal with us safe in the knowledge nothing like this is going to happen to them again.”