Hard-up dad-of-four Zulficar Ahmad thought his dreams had come true when he found more than £10,000 in his bank account.
He spent the windfall and within a few weeks had paid off his debts and splashed out on electrical goods and home improvements.
Then a bombshell dropped – when he was told the money was not his and had mistakenly been paid to him...by the police.
The clanger came after Ahmad, aged 36, and a friend were detained without charge by South Yorkshire Police officers at a food store in Rotherham.
Neil Coxon, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court, said: “The circumstances are somewhat peculiar.”
Officers recovered £152.34 from Ahmad and £10,539.59 from elsewhere in the premises which was thought to be the proceeds of crime.
But no charges were brought and police ordered Ahmad’s £152.34 be returned to him.
Mr Coxon said: “What should have been returned to Mr Ahmad was £152.34. That’s not what happened. “A BACS transfer was made which resulted in £10,691.93 being transferred into his account, the total of the money seized.”
Ahmad, of Chestnut Avenue, East Dene, Rotherham, admitted one count of retaining a wrongful credit in court.
Judge Paul Watson said the offence did deserve custody but it would be ‘grossly unjust’ to jail him.
Instead he ordered Ahmed to do 180 hours of unpaid work.
Judge Watson told him: “A sum of £10,000 was credited to your bank account and you plainly knew it, because within four days you started to withdraw large sums. You also knew the £10,000 was not yours.
“When the money was paid to you it was paid in the mistaken belief that it was being returned to its rightful owner.
“One way or another I suspect somebody probably quite soon will begin proceedings against you for the recovery of that £10,000.
“There is no answer to an action against you for the recovery of that sum.”
But he said he doubted Ahmad would be able to repay the money.