Machine fiddler who netted £2k in winnings from a Northampton services found guilty of fraud

Simon Palmer scammed Northampton Service Station gambling machines out of more than 2,000.
Simon Palmer scammed Northampton Service Station gambling machines out of more than 2,000.

A man that scooped more than £2,000 from a Northampton service station's gambling machines in one night has been convicted of fraud offences - after cameras caught him fiddling the jackpots.

Between January 9 and 10 last year, Milton Keynes man Simon Palmer and two accomplices systematically targeted service stations in Cheshire, Staffordshire, the West Midlands, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire - netting £19,000 in total from the scam.

Palmer was later arrested after being recognised on a CCTV recording, but he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and possessing articles for use in fraud.

Yesterday, a jury at Warwick Crown Court took just 88 minutes to find Palmer, 50, of Porters Close, Milton Keynes, guilty of both charges by unanimous verdicts.

Adjourning the case for him to be sentenced at a later date, Judge Peter Cooke rejected a bail application, saying: “It’s no kindness to put off the evil day.”

Prosecutor Simon Burch said: “What this defendant did is to agree with two others whose identities are still unknown to carry out frauds on gaming machines at motorway services.

"There was a significant degree of planning, and a series of offences that took place between about nine in the evening on the 9th of January last year and seven in the morning the next day.

“There were seven individual offences in total, the first being at the Lymm service area on the M6 in Cheshire where £2,000 was defrauded from a gaming machine.”

The three men, referred to because of the headwear they were captured wearing at each venue as 'bobble hat man', 'baseball cap man' and 'red hat man', then headed south to Sandbach

Services where they netted a total of £3,300.

They next struck at Stafford North services, Hilton Park services near Wolverhampton, Tamworth Services on the M42 and Donington Park services in Leicestershire, before getting £2,404 at the Northampton North service area on the M1, where they called it a night.

At each service area they could be seen using the same method, with bobble hat man flanked by the other two at a gaming machine in an attempt to mask what he was doing.

Bobble hat man repeated that operation a number of times, interspersed, when members of staff were around, with a few plays on the machine, mainly by red hat man, until they had clocked up around £400 in credit.

Red hat man, who on the Lymm services CCTV could clearly be seen to be Palmer, then pressed the pay-out button to obtain a receipt ticket which he passed to baseball cap man who took it to an ATR machine and obtained the cash.

Palmer claimed he had stayed in the car while the other three men went inside, where he said he believed they were using legal means to ‘work’ the machines.

He repeatedly denied being one of the three who went in, despite the clear evidence that he was red hat man.

Following the jury’s verdicts, his barrister James Doyle applied for him to be granted bail until the sentencing hearing.

But Judge Cooke told him: “Your client has been convicted on very strong evidence. The form of sentence is inevitable for both the sophisticated nature of what he did and his lengthy antecedents for similar offences.

“He will be facing an immediate prison sentence. It is no kindness to put off the evil day.”