A DEBT-ridden policeman who tried to con colleagues that a bag full of cash was his has escaped prison.
Peter Yeats, of Celandine Drive, St Leonards, was working in Hastings when £3,500 was handed in to police in Lewes by an honest member of the public back in July.
And, after spotting the find on a police log, the 32-year-old tried to set up an elaborate sting to claim the money as his own.
Yeats, claiming to be a Kirk Rose from Cornwall, phoned police just two hours after the cash was handed in, telling cops that his wife had dropped it while out jogging in Plumpton the day before.
But, unbeknown to Yeats, colleagues in Lewes knew the money had been sitting in the bush significantly longer because it had begun to rot.
And suspicions of a fraud were confirmed when officers contacted the real Mr Rose who told them he had no idea who had hijacked his identity and had definitely not lost such a significant pile of cash.
Lewes Crown Court heard that police then traced the mobile number which had made the original call - and 14 subsequent appeals for the money - and found it was on used by neighbourhood response officers here in Hastings.
And a subsequent investigation found that bungling conman Yeats had used his work computer to search the internet for information on bridleways in Plumpton and holiday cottages in Cornwall.
Yeats was arrested and immediately resigned from the force.
And, appearing in court earlier this week, he admitted fraud - telling the judge that he and his wife, a nurse, had struggled to make ends meet since the birth of their son a year ago.
Julian Dale, defending, said Yeats and his wife both tried to work extra shifts, but were held back by having to share the responsibility of looking after the tot.
Apparently, Yeats had seen the cash as a way of paying for childcare.
Sentencing Yeats to a three month suspended prison spell, Christine Laing QC told the former policeman: “What you did was a gross breach of trust that the public must place in all police officers.”
Yeats was spared prison because of his previous good character but was also ordered to carry out 60 hours of community service.
The original owner of the cash was never traced, and the money was given to the man who handed it in.