LEADING Gwent businessman David Lewis, whose companies have a turnover of £39m, was described by a judge yesterday as "a pathological gambler who demonstrated pathological dishonesty."

Lewis, 46, defrauded a bank of more than £88,000 in respect of gambling debts, Cardiff crown court heard.

Lewis was described by judge Jonathan Durham-Hall as a "spectacularly rash and reckless gambler, who gambled on anything that moved and lived."

Lewis, of Sluvad Road, New Inn, Pontypool, admitted obtaining a money transfer of £88,827 by deception.

He was sentenced to a community rehabilitation order for three years and ordered to pay costs of £32,000.

Police say Lewis owns a variety of businesses including the Cwrt Bleddyn Hotel the outskirts Caerleon to Usk road, David Lewis Civil Engineering and two pubs in the Blackwood area.

Prosecutor Tim Evans said that Lewis had been gambling with bookmakers Stan James. When he incurred losses he claimed that his credit card was being used without his authority and clawed back the losses from the bank.

Mr Evans said that Lewis had started gambling "a fairly large amount of money to play with".

He described him as a "prolific and unsuccessful gambler" who, over three months, staked £250,000.

The judge told Lewis, who had been suffering from an acute depressive illness since 1999: "When the truth was put before you you wriggled, twisted and whinged." Gambling, the judge said, had become a game involving the bookmaker, the bank and Lewis. He said Lewis was "a pathological gambler who demonstrated pathological dishonesty."

He added: "The reality is that you are a very sick man." His counsel Patrick Harrington, QC, said Lewis never intended to act dishonestly, and added: "What he did was unlawful, crass, stupid and dishonest."

At the time of the offence, Lewis was physically and emotionally in poor shape, Mr Harrington added.

The defence counsel said the only losers in the end were Lewis and his family. Neither the bank nor the bookmaker lost anything and all the monies have been repaid.

He said so ill was Lewis that in October, he was found by a friend in his home lying under a table shaking uncontrollably. He will require anti-depressants for three years, the court heard.

The court was told that Lewis had raised more than half a million pounds for various charities and employed 400 people.