A fraudster ‘flagrantly betrayed’ the trust put in him when he stole thousands from his employer and secretly filmed women for his own sexual pleasure.

Gareth Edwards, 41, worked as operations manager at Big Chief Tipis, a family-run Radcliffe business which supplied traditional Native American tents to weddings and parties.

Minshull Street Crown Court heard how all the while he was creating false invoices to pay money into his own account, while his crimes also extended into secretly filming women in vulnerable positions without their knowledge for his own sexual gratification.

Judge Elliot Knopf said: “These are very different offences but the common factor in both is trust.

“Trust was placed in you and you breached that trust with gross and flagrant betrayals whereby you took advantage of and exploited that trust for your own financial benefit."

He added: “Similarly you exploited the trust placed in you for your own sexual gratification, making these women subject to your own perverted gaze.”

The Bolton News: The case was heard at Minshull Street Crown CourtThe case was heard at Minshull Street Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

Helena Williams, prosecuting, told the court how Edwards, of Willand Close, Breightmet, had worked for Big Chief Tipis, which was based on Vale Street, Radcliffe, between May 2018 and October 2019.

Taking advantage of the trust placed in him by the managing director, Edwards stole more than £17,000 from the company by creating false invoices and paying the money into his own bank account.

But his ‘little wheezes and schemes’ as Judge Knopf called them came to an end after the invoices were discovered at Edwards’ home, which was put up for sale after he and his ex-wife separated in early 2019 along with electronic recordings of women he had made.

The recordings showed that, entirely separately from his career as a fraudster, Edwards had secretly filmed two different women for his own sexual gratification.

One of them took place between 2011 and 2013, while the second victim had been lured to his home to use sunbeds.

Edwards was arrested soon after his crimes were discovered, with his computer and mobile phone seized.

Police analysed the footage and in one of the recordings Edwards can be seen setting up the camera before leaving it to record his victim.

He was convicted of fraud on March 4 last year and eventually pleaded guilty to voyeurism and producing indecent images.

The Bolton News: Gareth Edwards had been employed as operations manager at Big Chief Tipi in RadcliffeGareth Edwards had been employed as operations manager at Big Chief Tipi in Radcliffe (Image: Public)

The court heard how both of his victims had been caused ‘serious psychological harm’ by what he had done and had struggled with trust ever since.

Ms Williams told the court how his actions had also wrecked devastation upon the his former employers.

A victim impact statement read out by Ms Williams said that Edwards ‘sounded too good to be true’ when he first joined the company.

She said: “We were a family business and we always went through hell and high water together.”

She added: “He went against everything Big Chief Tipis stands for, to hear from customers fears that Gareth had stolen the equivalent of their deposits was heart-breaking.”

Ms Williams add that Big Chief Tipis had since had to close.

Huw Edwards, defending, told the court that Edwards was entitled to credit having pleaded guilty to his crimes and had no previous convictions other than a caution for violence from when he was 18.

He said: “Nothing I say intends to excuse the defendants offending, I couldn’t do that, he couldn’t do that.”

But he added that Edwards suffered from medical conditions, including a stroke that had delayed the case, while a probation report claimed he had shown ‘genuine contrite and remorse.’

Judge Knopf sentenced Edwards to two years in prison, suspended for two years and ordered him to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work with 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

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He also hit him with a sexual harm prevention order, a ten year sexual offenders registration order and banned him from working with children or vulnerable adults.

Before Edwards left the dock, Judge Knopf addressed the fraudster and voyeur directly and warned him he risked an immediate jail sentence if brought before the court again.

He said: “Let me assure you of this, do not think that your medical condition will be a get out of jail free key if you come back.”