A FRAUDSTER who tried to get away with almost £60,000 of free shopping has been jailed for two years and three months.

Drug addict Allah Ditta exploited a fault with his debit card 167 times and bought items worth £56,683 at Tesco supermarkets despite having no funds in his bank account.

The 49-year-old realised he could use his debit card in this way when a transaction for £68 was approved on January 21 last year at a Tesco store in Low Moor.

Sophie Drake, prosecuting at Bradford Crown Court, said a software error meant transactions were approved when they should not have been.

She said Ditta realised something was wrong and immediately went to another store to buy something else and check his bank account.

The court heard his card was used 167 times at 14 Tesco shops in Bradford, Leeds, Garforth, Oldham and Manchester until he was arrested on February 15 last year.

It was not clear if the software fault was at Tesco stores or with the bank.

Mrs Drake said: "The defendant became aware of the fault on January 21 last year, having purchased items to the value of £68 from the Tesco at Low Moor.

"The transaction should have declined because he didn't have enough funds and he should have known that.

"The person on the checkout wasn't aware of the fault and the transactions were approved."

Ditta used the card - and also handed it out to others - to buy electric items, phones, computers, gift cards and get cash back in store.

Mrs Drake said the defendant carried on spending until he was arrested at the Great Horton Tesco store on February 15.

He was with his adult son at the time and told police he was not aware he had done anything wrong, but when he was interviewed by officers, he said: "Who wouldn't, who is honest these days?"

Geraldine Kelly, defending Ditta, said the defendant was going through a tough period in his life when he carried out the offences and was homeless.

She added: "This period of offending represents a very sorry time in his life.

"He has been a drug addict for 30 years, but despite that had been married for 40 years.

"As it was, that drug addiction led to the breakdown of his marriage.

"He was unable to see his wife and daughter and was homeless.

"Most of the sales of these items he purchased through this went towards his addiction.

"It is with great sadness that he is in custody and not able to see his daughter at all and will not be able to see her for a long time in the future."

Ditta has a long list of previous convictions, including three in the last year for shoplifting, burglary and theft.

He pleaded guilty to the fraud on New Year's Eve and was sentenced four days later.

Sentencing him to two years and three months in prison, His Honour Judge Robert Bartfield, said: "Through a malfunction in the software you discovered that a transaction of £68 which you were attempting to complete on your debit card in Bradford indicated to you, that for some reason, the appropriate checking facility was not working.

"That is to say you had no funds in your account and ordinarily your transaction would have been declined because you didn't have the grounds to pay.

"You were not slow to see the opportunity this offered because it dawned on you that if it was going to malfunction on this occasion, it was going to malfunction again and you milked it for all it was worth.

"Either yourself or people who were acting with you visited Tesco stores across the North of England.

"Altogether there was some 14 different branches or towns approached and 167 transactions.

"I recognise that you are addicted to drugs and your family has split.

"At the time of this case you were homeless and were doing this to mainly feed your addiction."