A CROOKED Greenock postman rifled through letters and parcels in a desperate quest for cash – after racking up so much debt through gambling that he could no longer afford to pay for his wedding.

Mark Dominick also stole computer and video games that he was supposed to deliver to addresses in Inverclyde – and then sold them on the e-commerce trading website eBay.

Suspicious bosses caught the thieving father-of-one red-handed after setting up a surveillance operation complete with ‘test packages’, Greenock Sheriff Court was told.

But shamed Dominick, 25 – who now works as a taxi driver – has been spared a prison sentence after a sheriff was told that the thief had made a ‘wholehearted apology’ to Royal Mail. 

Procurator fiscal depute Pamela Brady told the court: “Security staff had received information that greetings cards and other mail was in a mistreated condition.

“The test packages used had also been interfered with.”

Dominick was originally charged with helping himself to more than 700 items of mail during a seven-month period between September 2014 and April last year.

Mrs Brady said: “The accused was observed by investigators and was later approached and informed of their inquiry 

“He initially denied interfering with the mail, and theft, but then admitted that he had randomly started opening packets and had stolen a number of them.

"The accused advised that he was in financial difficulty and had opened the packets looking for money.”

Mrs Brady added: “Some of the packets contained computer video games which he went on to sell on eBay.”

Dominick’s defence lawyer said that her client was ‘under no illusions’ regarding the seriousness of his criminal behaviour.

But the solicitor added: “Mr Dominick has expressed great remorse.

“He had developed a gambling addiction which progressed from over-the-counter bets at bookmaker shops to online gambling and he had accumulated mounting debt.

“His wedding to his fiancee was cancelled as a result.”

The court heard how Dominick’s partner is ‘standing by’ him, and had accompanied him to court along with his parents.

Dominick’s lawyer said: “His financial position was desperate and he did succumb to opening mail.

“He is thoroughly ashamed of his actions and has apologised wholeheartedly to his former employer.

“Mr Dominick is now a taxi driver and his partner is at college and not earning.

“All of his income would be lost to the family if he were to receive a custodial sentence.

“This matter has been a real wake-up call for him and he has not gambled since April last year. He also attends Gamblers Anonymous.

“Mr Dominick has no previous convictions for matters of dishonesty.”

Sheriff Iain Fleming told the thief, whose address was not given in court, that he was ‘lucky’ that alternatives to a custodial sentence had to be considered.

He placed Dominick under supervision for 18 months and ordered him to carry out 160 hours of unpaid work within a year.

Sheriff Fleming warned him: “If you don’t do it you will go to jail.”