Shohab Jalil claimed he planned to pay back Preston Council, who had wrongly put £626,000 into his account in a computer error.
Police visited Jalil’s home in Harewood Road, Deepdale, less than a day later and arrested him. They discovered £36,000 of the money had gone already. Jalil had sent £23,900 of it to his friend Barkat Ali Yousaf, to help him with debts.
Jalil was later given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and Yousaf, 36, of Moreton Park Road, Bideford, Devon, received four months’ jail suspended for 18 months, after Judge Christoper Cornwall branded Jalil’s actions as “pretty discreditable.”
Jalil, 35, said he regretted his “stupid” behaviour but that he had not gone out and splashed the cash on luxury items.
He said: “I could see (the money) was from the council and of course I knew that that’d come after me soon, no-one ignores losing that kind of money.
“But all I wanted to do was pay off my debts and then owe Preston Council the money.
“That would just give me one person to repay and stop the phone calls, the letters and the harassment.
“He (Bakrat Ali Yousaf) is like a brother to me, we’ve been through thick and thin together and I just wanted to help him out. We’re just two guys struggling to get through life. I just wanted to help give my family an easy life, because they’re all that matter to me.”
The married father-of-four, a former carer who works at a Leyland takeaway, was arrested in January last year.
“I know it was a stupid thing to do and it has done me no favours,” he said. “I still owe money and could now go to prison. But I’ve asked a million people and they all said they would have left the country or bought fancy cars and houses – I didn’t do any of that.
“The only thing I bought was a second-hand bike. My four sons all have bikes but they all need bits and pieces so I bought the bike, stripped it and will fix all their bikes. It was a mistake and I wish I could take it all back.”
He added: “I was so happy I wasn’t going to jail, I couldn’t bear to be away from my family. We don’t have much but we have a roof over our heads and we’re all working hard to get by and that’s all we need, each other.”
Prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, Rachel Cooper, said: “On January 11, 2015 staff at Preston City Council became aware a payment had been credited for £626,257. It was enacted on January 8 but took several days to be processed through system.
“It was later proved it was a simple computing error but money went into Jalil’s account and the council was not able to get it back.
“Police got in touch with Mr Jalil at 10.50pm that night. They asked if he had noted the large amount of money in his account. He replied: ‘Yeah, I’ve been a bit naughty with it.’
“He told officers he thought it was a reward from God for the volunteering he’d done.”
The court heard both men had taken the view that they would pay off their creditors but once caught would simply pay money back to their banks.
The court was also told Jalil had helped society by employing rehabilitated offenders at his business, raising money for Cancer Research and he had been a carer for five years.
The pair now face action under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Lorraine Norris, Preston Council’s chief executive, said £7,243 of the money had not been recovered yet. She added: “Clearly, there has been system error. We have therefore worked with our internal and external auditors, as well as our third party IT system suppliers, to carry out a detailed and forensic review of what went wrong. We have now put in place additional procedures and further system security measures, to ensure such payment errors cannot occur in the future.”