Norwich man ripped off Norfolk libraries

A Norwich man ripped off the county's libraries by setting up fraudulent accounts and then selling on books and computer games to pay off his drug debts, a court heard.

Ross Druce, 34, set up 60 library accounts in false names in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and across the county, and defrauded Norfolk Library Services of about �5,000 worth of goods.

He appeared for sentencing before Norwich magistrates yesterday after earlier pleading guilty to three charges of theft and three of fraud by false representation. He was jailed for 18 weeks, suspended for 18 months.

The court heard that Druce had entered the libraries with his girlfriend Lisa Martin, who had been cautioned for her part in the scam.

Prosecutor Phil Charnley said: 'The three false representations and three thefts are very much sample offences.

'Between June and August 2009, this defendant and his girlfriend went into a number of libraries in Norfolk and opened 60 fraudulent accounts under false names and fictitious names for children.

'They borrowed high value books and computer games which they never returned. The total items taken were worth about �5,000.

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'Some of the books taken were later found at second-hand bookshops including Beatniks in Magdalen Street, Norwich.

'Some still had the electronic bar codes in place. Thanks to the store's records Druce was traced and arrested.

'In interview he said he owed a drug dealer about �4,000 and his girlfriend and her daughter had been threatened with violence.

'After the library accounts were opened, Druce gave the computer games and other items to the dealer, who kept the comic books as he was a fan.

'Druce's girlfriend was also interviewed, but it was accepted that Druce played the major role, and she was cautioned. The outstanding items not recovered come to �995.55.'

Druce, from Manchester Place, off Vauxhall Street, had also previously pleaded guilty to stealing a camera – between July 23 and 31 last year – that he had found in flats in Gladstone Street, off Dereham Road, Norwich where he was then living.

Mr Charnley said Druce had sold the camera for �50 to Cash Converters, but it had since been retrieved and returned to its owner.

The court heard that Druce, who was a part-time delivery driver, had 71 previous convictions.

James Landles, for Druce, said his client had not offended for about three-and-a-half years before these crimes.

'He had issues with Class A drugs, but had beaten it and come off prescribed medication,' he said.

'Then, all of a sudden, his boat was rocked, and his partner and her child were placed under threat of violence. He should have responded by going to the police, but he handed over their passport and national insurance details to the drug dealers, and he was then told to go to the libraries and take these items. It was not committed for his financial gain. He later had to borrow �1,000 extra from his family to get the dealers off his back.'

Druce will be under the supervision of the probation service for the next 18 months. He was also ordered to pay �999.55 compensation, but no order for costs was made.