Thefts of £300,000 worth of items from a distribution hub in Rugby were only discovered after it was realised an unusually high number of parcels were being delivered to the same address.
But two men have escaped being jailed despite being responsible between them for more than 200 of the thefts from the Hermes super-hub in Overview Way, Rugby, where they both worked.
Emanuil Radu (26) of Cherrywood Road, Birmingham, and Isac Radu (26) of Winnington Road, Birmingham, pleaded guilty to theft from the hub, which handles up to 1.5 million parcels a day.
But at Warwick Crown Court their barristers argued that because no values had been put on most of the items, it could not be proved each of them stole property worth more than £10,000.
Emanuil and Isac, who the court heard are not related, were sentenced to six months in prison suspended for 18 months and were each ordered to do 120 hours of unpaid work.
Prosecutor Holly Kilbey said that in September last year the security manager at Hermes began an investigation after it was noticed a large number of parcels were going to the same address.
Emanuil Radu was implicated, and CCTV footage showed him placing a delivery label to that address on a parcel containing a 49-inch Samsung television.
Further footage three days later showed him labelling two more televisions worth £1,290 – and a recording from earlier that month showed him placing a label on another TV to the address.
“This led to further investigations which showed at least 100 parcels had been delivered to the address.
“It was discovered this had been going on over a nine-month period, with a total loss to the company of approximately £300,000.
“It is not possible for the Crown to attribute the entire loss to the actions of the two defendants. However, at least 340 parcels had been identified through the Hermes tracking system as delivered to addresses linked to the defendants.
“The method used is that they would have fake shipping labels printed attributed to addresses of the defendants or their friends which would be stuck over the top of the genuine label.”
When Isac was called to the security office he handed over three fake shipping labels and admitted placing labels on parcels which were then sent to his address and those of friends.
After his arrest Isac, who admitted stealing 150 parcels including at least one containing a television worth over £1,000, told police he would then sell the contents at car boot sales.
When Emanuil was questioned he gave his home address, to which records showed a large number of parcels had been delivered, and he admitted he had been doing it for three months.
But he said the parcels were then collected by another person who would pay him £15 for each one – and he accepted stealing 78 parcels, including four TVs.
And Miss Kilbey said it was impossible to identify the value of the items stolen, apart from the televisions.
Mark Hemming, for Isac, said: “He purchased delivery labels from his section leader at the company, and over a period of 2-3 months 50 small boxes were delivered to his home.
“None of those related to a television, and the total value of the thefts did not exceed £10,000. He does not accept he played any part in the larger-scale theft.
“He took the opportunity to purchase these labels during the lockdown when he was struggling for money.”
Ilana Davis, for Emanuil, said: “He says he did not know what was contained in the parcels, but that not all of the parcels were sent to him.
“His was not a leading role. He was invited by someone else to stick labels on the boxes. Those boxes would be delivered to his house where they would then be picked up by another person and Emanuil Radu given £15.”
Sentencing the two men, Recorder William Edis QC told them: “For three months last year you stole from your employer significant number of parcels that were intended for other people.
“The systematic plundering of this company by its employees only came to light in September 2020, and it came to light because a remarkably large number of parcels were delivered to a single address.
“Overall this company says it lost £300,000 over nine months, but you are only responsible for your individual thefts. You have not been charged with being part of a wider conspiracy.
“It is quite clear you did not implement this, and that it had been in operation for some time before you joined it, and the prosecution accept the maximum value which can be attributed to you is in the region of £10,000 for each of you.
“If someone had not made the remarkably stupid decision to send a large number of parcels to the one address there is every chance this serious dishonesty would have gone undetected.
“Your role was significant. If you had not applied those tickets, the goods would not have been stolen, and if you had not allowed your own homes to be places of delivery, these thefts would not have happened.
“The goods had to be identified by someone as being worth stealing, and I believe you did that. There was a significant breach of trust.
“2020 was, of course, lockdown year, and the entire country was relying on the good offices of delivery companies for goods they could not go out and get themselves.
“It was vital to all of us that those companies could be trusted to deliver our goods as and when we wanted them.
“Not only that, if companies such as Hermes get a reputation as unsafe custodians of our property, it is easy to see that they may suffer very severe reputational damage.”
But observing that both men were married with families, he added: “There is arguably strong personal mitigation, and immediate custody would result in harmful impact on others.”