AN IT specialist who was employed by a business to fix their computer software has been jailed after stealing thousands of pounds in cryptocurrency from the company's owner.

Mark Andrews, of Woodlands Road, Haresfinch, St Helens was charged with theft and one offence under the Computer Misuse Act.

The 38-year-old appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, Thursday to be sentenced.

The court heard the defendant now feels his actions were "very stupid".

Jonathan Duffy, prosecuting, said: "The victim in this case had purchased a quantity of cryptocurrency and stored it in a secure private folder within his business network.

"In April 2019, the currency had increased in value to £31,244.07.

"The defendant was a self-employed IT specialist who supported businesses with their software and networks.

"The victim employed Mark Andrews to sort out his business's IT software and paid him £1,320 for the job.

"Andrews had access to the business's system and all aspects of the network.

"But he secured unauthorised access to the victim's private folder and stole all of the cryptocurrency."

The victim figured out what had happened a couple of weeks later and reported it to the police.

Cheshire Police's cyber crime team seized Andrews' computer and discovered the transactions.

He had spent £14,000 clearing his own debt and £17,000 was recovered.

Andrews has four previous convictions for eight offences including obtaining property by deception and selling an authorised decoder.

In a victim impact statement read out to the court, the businessman whose cryptocurrency was stolen said: "This has really affected my ability to trust people.

"It was an extremely stressful time."

Simeon Evans, defending, told the court that Andrews "cannot believe what he did" and feels "very stupid".

The court also heard how Andrews often fixes laptops and computers for schoolchildren for free.

Jailing Andrews for 20 months, judge Simon Berkson said: "You were put in a high degree of trust at this man's business, you breached that trust by stealing all of the money you could.

"It was an easy thing for you to do.

"This was his personal money and it caused this man significant harm."