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An accountant from Stockport has been found guilty of fraud after helping herself to £4,350 in cash from her employer, in order to fund an out-of-control bingo habit.

Maria Parsonage, 36, was spending up to £30 a day on online bingo sites and stole the cash to pay off accumulated debts which were racked up using high street loans. She admitted to five counts of fraud and was sentenced by Stockport magistrates to 200 hours of unpaid work. The court ruled, however, that she would not have to pay any of the stolen cash back because she did not have any money.

Chairman of the bench Keith Williams said during sentencing: “We have taken account of the information you have given us about your means. We have decided in view of that information not to make a compensation order.”

Parsonage, who is married with two children, started work for the company Vital People in Stockport back in May 2011, with the multiple frauds taking place between August and December. She is now a member of Gamblers Anonymous, whose staff provided a letter of support in the case.

Speaking after the sentencing, Vital People company director Jason Fox said the decision not to order Parsonage to pay back any of the money sent out the wrong message to the community. He said: “What really annoys me is the message being sent out is ‘don’t worry about stealing, you get away with it’. But I didn’t want her to go to jail, I don’t think it would have helped her, especially if she has a family.”

Bingo is one of the most popular past-times in the UK with purportedly more than 3 million players registered at bingo halls up and down the country, a fair percentage of which now also play online.