A Middlesbrough man stole Â£ 21,000 from a retired NHS employee after he was mistakenly transferred to his bank account.
Instead of returning the money, Daniel Watson gave the funds to family members who were paying off his gambling debts.
Teesside Crown Court learned how the error was reported to the 36-year-old man and he agreed to transfer the money to the woman.
Jonathan Harley, prosecuting, told the court how Watson said he had to go to the bank the next morning to complete the transaction.
He said a new attempt to call Watson was diverted to a service provider and the Facebook message to him was rejected.
Mr Harley said the woman contacted her bank to see if she could stop the payment, but was unable to do so.
He said Watson had been questioned and said he had a legitimate reason for keeping control of the money.
Middlesbrough court heard how Watson transferred Â£ 7,000, Â£ 5,000 and Â£ 3,000 to private bank accounts, one of which belonged to his father.
He told police he believed the payment was made in connection with the work he asked to be done.
In a victim impact statement, read to court by Mr Harley, the woman said she was receiving a state pension and a small NHS pension.
The victim, who has worked for the NHS for more than 20 years, said she had no hesitation in supporting the police as she could not afford to lose Â£ 21,000.
She added that the crime, which took place in February 2019, will have a “huge” and “devastating” impact on her future life.
Watson, of Roworth Road, Thorntree, pleaded guilty to theft at a previous hearing.
Richard Bennett, in defense, told the court that it was simply an “opportunistic” situation which he unfortunately took advantage of because of the situation he found himself in.
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He said Watson had a four-year gambling addiction which placed him in “considerable debt”, particularly with people.
Mr Bennett told the court that his family members were paying off his debt in order to avoid threats.
He said: âThe reality of the situation was that he got into debt to family members because they were trying to bail him out.
âThere were threats against him and members of his family.
Mr Bennett added that the money was gone within a day.
He added: âIt happened in a day because he was trying to keep his head above the water.
“He understands the gravity of the situation and the effect it had on the victim.”
Mr Bennett said Watson apologizes for his actions.
Recorder Tahir Khan QC told Watson: “I have no doubt that you are remorseful now, but back then you selfishly held on to the money you knew very well was not yours and who deserves punishment.
“You insisted that the money was yours – it was just wrong. You carried on like that for a while.”
The judge told the court he should give Watson a suspended prison sentence so that the victim can receive compensation.
He sentenced him to 18 months in prison suspended for two years.
Watson was also ordered to pay compensation of Â£ 21,000, perform 140 hours of unpaid work and complete 10 days of rehabilitative activity as required.
The Khan QC recorder told him, “Mr. Watson is free to leave the dock, but you are going to have to work very hard to avoid going to jail.”