A retail manager who stole more than £19,000 from a fashion shop chain by pocketing the money from false refunds has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

James Pullan, 27, defrauded Fat Face, in South Hawksworth Street, Ilkley, over almost three years because he needed cash to pay his rent, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Pullan, of Hamilton Terrace, Otley, pleaded guilty on November 16 to eight charges of stealing from his employer, between March, 2006, and January, 2009.

Pullan, who now works for a national airline, was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, yesterday.

He must do 150 hours of unpaid work and pay back £1,800 of the stolen money at £100 a month.

Prosecutor John Topham said Pullan joined the chain in November, 2004, and was confronted by his manager about the fraud the day before he was due to leave for another job, in June, 2010.

He created 149 false clothing refunds and paid them into his bank account, or took them in cash.

Many of the dishonest transactions were made after 5pm when the shop was quiet.

When called into the boss’s office about the fraud, Pullan confessed immediately, saying: “I have been stupid.”

He said his girlfriend had been made redundant and the couple could not support themselves financially.

Mr Topham said Pullan wrote a letter to Fat Face’s human resources manager apologising.

He was not interviewed by the police until February 18, 2012, after the firm had carried out a full audit.

Pullan’s barrister, Nicholas De La Poer, said he was of previous good character and he had stopped the fraud before he was caught.

There was no evidence of high living. He lived modestly and was in a desperate financial situation.

He was due to marry in March and was very remorseful.

Judge David Hatton QC told him he was in a position of trust and used “a degree of sophistication” to cover up the thefts. But there was no evidence of a lavish lifestyle and he had not committed offences since.