An internet gambling addict has been jailed for milking his employers of £1m to fund his habit.
Bryan Benjafield stole up to £17,000 at a time
Bookkeeper Bryan Benjafield admitted siphoning off the cash as he worked for Charminster Limited in Dorchester.
Dorchester Crown Court was told the company went into liquidation as a result of losses caused by Benjafield, 23, who stole up to £17,000 at a time.
Benjafield, from Bere Regis, Dorset, will spend half his five-year term in jail and the rest in the community.
Benjafield's actions were discovered when a VAT bill went unpaid because the construction company lacked the account funds to pay it.
The accounts administrator had siphoned off the money by electronic transfer, cheques and cash withdrawals.
The construction company informed the police when they discovered more than £400,000 was missing.
Benjafield was found guilty of two charges of theft totalling £616,490 and of obtaining money by deception.
A £16,000 salary
Benjafield had a salary of about £16,000, but regularly spent more than this annual income a day on online betting using company money between 1 January 2004 and 28 October 2005.
He gambled £1,047,550 and won back about £50,000.
Recorder Andrew Langdon, who jailed Benjafield, said he was staggered by the ease at which a "desperate man can spend such enormous sums".
Mr Langdon said: "It says something of the power of addiction that despite the low rate of return on your mindless betting you carried on despite the obvious consequences."
Mike Jones, managing director of Charminster Ltd, who had known Benjafield since he was a teenager, said the banks should have spotted the huge sums entering Benjafield's accounts from the construction company.
"One year he's turning over £17,000 or £18,000, the next it's in excess of £1m.
"No one has batted an eyelid. They should have spotted that. It should have been reported to the authorities," Mr Jones said.
Benjafield, who had been gambling since he was 18, has sought help from Gamblers Anonymous.