A FINANCIAL controller cheated his care homes company employer out of more than £23,168, York Crown Court heard.

James Craig Spence, 53, used his access to the company bank account to siphon funds into his own account and a company credit card to pay for a Caribbean holiday, said Adam Walker, prosecuting.

When caught, he blamed his wife, claiming he “couldn’t stop her spending”.

Two innocent staff under him at the North Yorkshire company were formally interviewed on suspicion of being involved in his fraud, said the barrister.

After confessing to his account transfers, Spence kept quiet about the Antigua holiday until company checks uncovered his credit card crime.

Spence’s barrister Helen Towers said his marriage was over.

“The defendant was in a period of financial turmoil,” she said.

“He is adjusting to single life and selling his home to try and get on top of his debts.”

Spence had repaid £21,226.74 of the money he had taken.

Spence, who started work as financial controller at Orchard Care Homes in Harrogate in July 2016, of Scruton, near Northallerton, pleaded guilty to theft of £21,226.74.

He also admitted fraud by using the company credit card to the value of £1,941.87.

He no longer works for the company.

The Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, told him: “I am going to make you graft for the community.

"You will do that work cheerfully, efficiently and on time.”

He gave him a 20-month prison sentence, suspended for two years on condition Spence does 300 hours’ unpaid work.

He must also pay £1,941.87 compensation to the company and £420 prosecution costs.

A court statement from the company said the offences had caused a “high degree of disruption” and sense of betrayal.

Staff members had had to work long hours to deal with the aftermath, the court heard.

The judge told Spence: “You were stealing from your employer in order to keep your marriage together.

“It is a breach of trust.

"You have let people down badly.”