RESTAURANT bosses in South Tyneside backed a loser when they gave a second chance to a manager who stole nearly £5,000 to cover his gambling debts.
Gazmend Zykaj repaid the owners of Martinos Italian restaurant in Jarrow by stealing more money.
Magistrates in South Tyneside heard Zykaj had been allowed to keep his job despite taking £4,800 from the business, but went on to steal another £1,700 from the till just weeks after the reprieve.
The 38-year-old admitted two counts of theft by an employee.
Zykaj took £4,800 from the restaurant, in Ellison Street, Jarrow, between August 1 and November 14 last year, with the second theft occuring between December 2 and 5.
Magistrates decided the case was so serious that their sentencing powers were not sufficient and committed the case to Newcastle Crown Court.
Glenda Beck, prosecuting, said: “Wendy Donkin is co-owner of the restaurant, along with Colin and Fiona Leng. Zykaj was employed as manager at the restaurant for two years and she considered him a trustworthy man.
“Part of his responsibilities was being in charge of the restaurant’s takings.
“On November 14, Miss Donkin received a text message from the defendant admitting taking the restaurant’s takings.
“He said he was in trouble and needed to pay off debts.
“She discussed the issue with her fellow owners and they allowed him to remain in employment, but removed his manager status.
“It was agreed he could stay in employment, but would have to pay back the money at a rate of £100 per week from his salary.”
However, she said, when another manager at the restaurant was on holiday in December, Zykaj was put back in temporary charge of the takings.
He was told to leave the takings for each day in a designated place – the first aid area.
Mrs Beck added: “On December 4 at 9.30pm, he left the restaurant, leaving only the chef on the site, and returned a short time later saying he had fallen over and needed a bandage.
“He went to the first aid area. The cash was later found to have gone missing.”
The police were informed and Kykaj was arrested. He admitted the total theft of £6,518 from the restaurant.
Mrs Beck added: “He accepted it was a dishonest betrayal of his employers. He said he had a gambling addiction.
“It was a breach of trust. A specific part of his duties was to look after the money taken in by the restaurant. He has abused that position.”
Paul Kennedy, defending, said: “He accepts there was wrongdoing. He had huge gambling debts which led to a breakdown of a relationship and put huge pressures on him.
“He held his hands up at the first available opportunity and made full admissions to the police. He is now working at a restaurant in Newcastle.”
Keith Suddards, chairman of the magistrates, said sentencing should be carried out at Newcastle Crown Court.
Zykaj, of Deckham Terrace, Gateshead, will appear before the crown court on February 3.
He was granted unconditional bail until then.
Ms Donkin said the restaurant wished to make no comment on the case.