A COUNCIL groundsman who turned to drug dealing to meet his debts has been ordered to pay back £20,000 from the proceeds of his crime.
Jason Upfold, 38, of Elm Green, Pitsea, began selling cannabis to help pay off spiralling debts and mortgage payments.
The married father-of-two, who worked for Essex County Council, was given a suspended one-year prison sentence, as well as 120 hours community service, after admitting possession of cannabis with intent to supply at a hearing last year.
Recorder Marc Lowe, sentencing, said Upfold had made an “appalling lapse of judgment” during a time of “exceptional strain”.
He therefore agreed to spare him jail because it would place his wife and two young children in even more financial difficulty.
Upfold appeared at Basildon Crown Court yesterday for a proceeds of crime hearing.
Marcus Croskell, prosecuting, said it had been agreed Upfold had benefited from his crime by £20,000.
Mr Croskell said Upfold’s assets had been valued at about £43,000, and he was in a position to repay the money.
John Caudle, mitigating, said: “I would ask the court to give my client six months to raise this money because it will take time.”
Judge John Lodge said: “You have benefited in the sum of £20,000, and you have assets in excess of £20,000.
“Bearing in mind the financial climate, and the likely difficulty in realising your assets, I will give you six months to repay this amount.
“That means you will have to repay it by December 18 this year.”
Judge Lodge dismissed an application from the prosecution for £626 costs.