A WARBURTONS bakery boss from Bolton has been jailed for his part in a £500,000 bread scam.

Robert Cooper, a 61-year-old grandfather, was today sentenced to four years in prison for his part in the con.

He was jailed along with Warburtons delivery driver, Paul Rogers, aged 34, and recycling boss, Paul Matthews.

Cooper, of Winchester Way, Breightmet, worked as a team manager for Warburtons when he and Rogers stole at least 60 lorry loads of baskets leased by Warburtons and sold them to PM Plastics in Sudellside Street, Darwen.

The pair had hatched the plot along with Matthews, PM Plastics’ owner, after Warburtons started recycling its bread baskets there in November, 2010 and a new universal basket had been introduced by supplier Bakers Basco, a consortium of leading bakers.

Rogers and Cooper helped themselves to bread baskets worth more than £560 000 to sell on for recycling.

Matthews, whose wife is a nurse, received and granulated 230 tonnes of £500-a-tonne stolen baskets.

Peter Cunliffe, defending Cooper, told Burnley Crown Court Warburtons had asked him to repay £250,000.

He added: “He was a mentor to other Warburtons staff and, of course, he was trusted “He is a family man and they will be devastated at his sentence.”

Former soldier and father-of-four Rogers, of Parkway, Rochdale, was jailed for three-and-a-half-years at Burnley Crown Court.

They had denied conspiracy to steal from Bakers Basco during an earlier trial at Preston Crown Court.

Each had blamed the other for the thefts.

Matthews, aged 46, of Jubilee Close, Darwen, had admitted the allegation.

He was jailed for three years.

The operation was said to have netted more than £115,000 and the three men now face a proceeds of crime hearing.

None of the men had ever been in trouble with the law before.

Sentencing the three men, Judge Simon Newell said: “This was a deliberate, significant, organised and professional conspiracy.

"This was a conspiracy over a protracted period of time. There was substantial loss to the companies involved.

"This does and did cause a very substantial financial loss to the companies involved, who have resolved matters between them and it would appear that it has led, understandably, to somewhat strained relationships between Warburtons and Bakers Basco, which was caused by nobody else other than the three of you.

“It's sad that one has to sentence men such as you in a situation like this."

He told Cooper: "You were in a position of trust and you betrayed that trust."