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Court gives stamp expert Ebay concession

PUBLISHED: 16:44 23 April 2008 | UPDATED: 08:56 13 July 2010

An avid stamp collector who embezzled thousands of pounds from church funds was on Thursday told to sell off his unique hoard on Ebay in an attempt to pay back the victims of his crimes.

An avid stamp collector who embezzled thousands of pounds from church funds was on Thursday told to sell off his unique hoard on Ebay in an attempt to pay back the victims of his crimes.

Norwich Crown Court planned to confiscate Derek Klein's three-tonne collection of first day covers and sell them at auction in an attempt to claw back as much as possible from his ill-gotten gains.

But Klein - who stole £70,000 over 20 years - protested saying a bulk auction would fetch only a fraction of the price he could achieve by breaking the collection up and selling the stamps on the internet site.

Judge Peter Jacobs said he was willing to take the unusual step after hearing that Klein was one of the top five dealers of his kind in the country.

But he warned: “If this man tries to cream off any of this money he would be a fool. I'm sure Mr Klein will have been told of my reputation and he will spend a lot more time behind bars if he tries to rip us off.”

While an auction of the entire stock may have struggled to reach £25,000, leaving victims out of pocket, Klein may be able to make four times that amount.

Once he has paid back Bacton and Ridlington parochial church councils, from whom he stole the money while working as treasurer, he will be allowed to keep any further proceeds. Mr Jacobs said this would provide an incentive for him to achieve the best possible price and ensure the churches got their money back in full.

The 53-year-old, of The Street, Ridlington, has already served 16 months in jail for siphoning off the cash raised from fetes and money donated to the churches.

The court heard he had not used his ill-gotten gains to live a high life but instead fed an internet gambling addiction and spent £100,000 on a stamp dealing business.

The collection, currently held under lock and key by Norfolk police, features 100,000 first day covers which would easily fill the average household's garage.

Notable items include stamps issued to mark the silver jubilee of George V, the silver wedding of George VI and England's victory over Germany in the 1966 World Cup final. There were also lower valued stamps such as those celebrating Sir Alec Guinness's Oscar winning performance in Bridge over the River Kwai.

William Carter, prosecuting, said the church councils had initially been keen for the court to seize the collection to ensure they would at least recover some of their losses. But after listening to Klein's offer they had decided to “suck it and see”.

Police will closely monitor Klein's activities and the proceeds from his sales will be managed by his solicitors. He has already recouped £15,000 from sales which will be paid immediately to the court.

But the judge warned him that if he does not pay the compensation he will be jailed for two years.

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