A SCOTTISH Power worker was caught stripping and selling on more than £20,000 worth of copper wire after a private detective was called in to investigate missing piping.

Mark Wallbank, aged 45, of Vixen Grove, Upton Rocks, Widnes, was found with copper piping and other equipment totalling around £7,000 in his garage when police arrested him on March 26.

Warrington Crown Court heard today, Monday how he took copper piping and stripped it down to sell on as scrap metal since 2011 along with another employee.

The pair shared the spoils 60/40.

Wallbank set up an account with a metal dealer under his brother’s name and paid the money he received into his son’s bank account.

Matthew Dunford, prosecuting, said the metal merchant had paid out £8,310 in six months.

But prosecutors did not know the final amount of his ill gotten gains but it was agreed the figure was more than £20,000.

Wallbank, who had no previous convictions, had squandered his money on gambling machines said Michael O’Brien, defending.

“He has expressed remorse and regret and the shame he had brought to his family. He is a kind and caring man devoted to his family,” he added.

Wallbank resigned from his £25,000 a year job and is now training to become a carer while also working as a labourer.

Sentencing him after Wallbank pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and theft from an employer Mr Recorder John Bromley Davenport said: “People who steal from their employer cause all kinds of problems for the employer, other staff and members of the public.”

Wallbank was given 12 month concurrent prison sentences, suspended for two years, 200 hours unpaid work, made to pay £250 costs and will face a proceeds of crime case in october.