Millionaire Dale Vince has been left an £11,000 legal bill after successfully prosecuting his former employee, who was found in possession of his stolen motorbike helmets.
Richard Cole was found guilty of handling stolen goods following a four day trial at Gloucester Crown Court brought by the chairman of Forest Green Rovers.
Cole, who worked as a builder for Mr Vince at his former Rodborough Common home, was convicted of being in possession of two of his black, white and grey Arai motorbike helmets, which went missing from his garage.
The 49-year-old was found not guilty of the more serious charge of conspiring to burgle Mr Vince’s garage between February 20 and March 31, 2012.
The football boss paid for the prosecution after the CPS deemed there was not sufficient evidence to take the case forward.
Recorder Stephen Climie told Cole: “The jury have convicted you of coming into possession of two items that were undoubtedly stolen during a series of break-ins to the garage.
“Who took them and how you came in possession of them I do not know.”
He sentenced him to an 18 month community order with 200 hours unpaid work and order he pay £5,000 of the £16,675 it had cost Mr Vince to bring the case.
Cole had worked for Mr Vince, but left employment in 2009 after a disagreement between the pair. The entrepreneur said he had let Cole go, but Cole disputed it saying he left voluntarily.
During the trial the court heard Cole of Tower Road South in Bristol was alleged to have encouraged his 16-year-old son, Jack, and his friend Kieran Marshall to go into the unlocked garage while Mr Vince was in the middle of moving homes.
But the jury cleared him of any part in the burglary itself – despite Cole’s own son giving evidence against him.
Both the boys, now 18, were given a police warning after admitting taking thousands of pounds worth of equipment from the garage.
Defending Matthew Harbinson said Cole, a former serviceman, had previous convictions for dishonesty, but they dated back to 1984, when he was a teenager and before he signed up.
He said because of the adverse publicity in the case, Cole could no longer work as a builder and was now in the haulage industry instead.