A MOTHER who admitted defrauding a Burton clothes shop by swapping labels on items she had bought for her children has received a community order.
Merianthe Maou, 44, would buy an item of clothing from TK Maxx, take the item home where she would attach the label to an old piece of clothing, then return to another store to gain a refund, Burton Magistrates’ Court was told.
She admitted six counts of fraud, which took place in stores across the West Midlands including Burton, between May 22 and June 4.
Emma Thompson, prosecuting, said Maou’s ‘modus operandi’ was the same on each occasion.
Maou, who is a British citizen of Greek-Cypriot descent, made full and frank admissions when questioned by the police.
She blamed her actions on financial troubles brought about by the collapse of Cypriot banks earlier this year.
“She said she had lost a lot of money and had to buy clothes for her children,” Mrs Thompson said.
Cyprus faced a major economic crisis earlier this year which led to the country relying on a €10 billion bailout from the European Commission.
Charles Lorton, defending, said Maou came from a business family which suffered financially in the banking crisis.
The bank recalled the mortgage on Maou’s family home forcing her to downsize to a smaller property, Mr Lorton said.
He said: “But the bank was still in trouble so they sold their second home to settle the debts.
“Then during the summer her husband was diagnosed with leukaemia and has not been able to work so the full brunt has fallen on her.
“She had to somehow gain some clothing, it was not down for her personal gain.
“She gave the police a lot of information and that has made this process a whole lot easier.
“A big penalty is what her colleagues in the community feel about this.
“It is something she regrets and she will try to save face again for her family.”
Presiding magistrate Ann Eason ordered Maou, of Sutton Coldfield, to complete a community order for six-weeks and 60 hours of unpaid work.
It would have been 90 hours but for her guilty plea, Mrs Eason said.
Maou was also ordered to pay £145 in court costs and a victim surcharge.