A pair of crooked managers stole car parts and paid refunds to their own bank card accounts while they were running branches in Barnstaple and Tiverton.

Ashley Sanders and Luke Heyda were the two managers at the Parts Alliance shops when mystery losses of £57,000 were discovered by company accountants.

The two men were found to be responsible for almost £6,000 of the missing money, which they swindled by taking home car parts which they put on clients’ bills.

They also generated bogus refunds which they paid to themselves until the fiddle was uncovered and they were both sacked.

The scam started when Sanders was running the Barnstaple branch and continued when he moved to run their business in Tiverton and his deputy Heyda took over his job.

Sanders, aged 32, of Sandringham Road, Barnstaple, admitted theft and Heyda, aged 30, of Longmeadow Drive, Barnstaple, admitted theft and fraud.

Sanders was jailed for eight months and Heyda for ten and a half months, both suspended for 18 months and both were ordered to do 140 hours unpaid community work.

Sanders was ordered to repay £3,579 and Heyda £2,274 by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

He told them: “You were both in positions of significant trust and each of you abused your position to dishonestly manipulate the company’s ordering and payment systems and trade accounts so as to make money and steal car parts for yourselves.

“You behaved in this way over a period of time. This was not the act of a moment, if was sustained deceitfulness.

“If there have been consequences for you in terms of employment and comments on social media, that is exactly how it should be.

“I appreciate the offences were not born out of pure greed and there may have been pressures in both of your lives at work and at home; but nothing in the background justifies how you took your employers for a ride and profited from this dishonesty.”

Bathsheba Cassel, prosecuting, said Sanders worked for Parts Alliance for 15 years, seven as branch manager in Barnstaple before he transferred to Tiverton and was succeeded by his assistant, Heyda.

A company investigation identified a £57,000 discrepancy but only £5,900 of this was attributable to the two men. They later admitted altering records and taking parts which they used on their own or their partners’ cars.

Richard Crabb, for Sanders, and Graham Blower, for Heyda, said they both lost their jobs as a result of the investigation but have found new employment.

They both regret what they did and are keen to repay the money despite having families and mortgages and facing other financial pressures.