A debt-ridden former international hockey player stole up to £450 in groceries by scanning all his items as "loose onions" at the self-service checkout in Sainsbury's. City recruitment consultant Nicholas Long, 25, stole up to £450 after he used the same ruse 20 times in the space of just three months. But he was rumbled when a security guard noticed Long was scanning in every item as loose onions - despite them not even being available to buy at the store. Long, who played Under 19 hockey internationally, came up with the scam when he feared losing his job and his then-girlfriend fell pregnant, the court heard.
Long was caught trying to get away cheaply with a £22 shop on August 7, and
confessed to having repeatedly conned the store, in Lombard Street, central
London. "It is a straight forward allegation that he went to Sainsbury's and was seen
scanning various items in at the self-service checkout", said prosecutor Denise
Murrin. "All items were being scanned as loose onions, but the store does not sell
loose onions. It was an inexpensive way of doing his shopping." Ms Murrin said Long was not a first-time thief, having previous convictions
for shoplifting in 2010 and 2011. He had been caught lifting a coat from John Lewis and tried to pass a bottle
of champagne off as bleach to buy it on the cheap in 2011.
Long had also in 2012 been caught stealing a mobile phone from a handbag at a
private party. Angus Mathieson, representing Long, admitted he had been "stupid" but was
driven by mounting debts and the fear of losing his job. "It was a stupid thing he has done", he said. "He was not getting a stupid amount, not substituting champagne or anything
like that, but just getting an avocado and claiming it was an onion. He had got a good job at the time, but committed an offence as he felt his
job was under threat and he was imminently likely to be made redundant. His girlfriend had become pregnant and he was worried about money, because
in addition he had debts.
Mr Mathieson said Long was not a 'manipulating and calculating thief', and
said he continues to use his hockey experience by voluntarily training young
players on the weekend. But Judge Paul Worsley QC dubbed Long a 'persistent thief' and warned him he
was on the edge of a prison sentence. "You are an otherwise respectable young man who achieved international
honours in hockey, so it is sad to see you before the courts. But if you persist in taking other people's property, whether a large
organisation like Sainsbury's or individual's, you will have to go to prison."
Long was sentenced to 180-hours community service, to be completed within a
year, and ordered to pay £250 costs. Long, of Chatham, Kent, admitted a single rolled-up count of fraud by false