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Oven cleaner who tried to fleece customer of £800 is jailed as judge tells him that just like his ovens he has to be ‘squeaky clean’

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An oven cleaner who altered a payment cheque from a customer for £65 to £865 has been jailed for four months and told by a judge: “You like your ovens have to be squeaky clean”.

District Judge Peter King told Christopher Norman Ferguson (32), of Greenmount Avenue in Coleraine, that anyone involved in business had to be “absolutely 100 per cent beyond reproach”.

Ferguson appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court on Monday via video link from prison.

He was being sentenced after previously being convicted of forgery regarding a cheque and a second charge of using a false instrument with intent to get a bank to believe it was genuine relating to 2014.

A prosecutor said a woman who had an oven cleaned by the defendant employed him again and wrote a cheque for £65 but when she later checked her bank account she found £865 had been debited.

When interviewed Ferguson denied he had been present at the woman’s home or that he had received a cheque.

The prosecutor said that although £865 came out of the woman’s account she didn’t know if the woman had been reimbursed.

Defence barrister Francis Rafferty said it was a “breach of trust” case in which the defendant had waived his right to a pre-sentence report.

The lawyer said Ferguson had nothing of that type of offending in his past.

The barrister said although the defendant maintained his innocence he was accepting the court conviction.

Judge King said it was an “amateurish” attempt to modify a cheque from £65 to £865 and it was always likely to be detected.

The defendant was given a four months jail term but was released on £500 bail pending appeal.

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