A home heating oil distributor and his son have appeared in court accused of stealing oil from an old people's home.
Although Robert Stephen White (52) and his son 32-year-old Paul White were released on bail from Newtownards Magistrates Court, District Judge Mark Hamill said there was no doubt their oil delivery business would come to a "shuddering halt" given the charges against them.
Robert White, from Creightons Green Road in Holywood, faces three counts of fraud by false representation by delivering incorrect amounts of oil, three of false accounting by falsifying receipts and two of possessing prohibited weapons, a Taser and a pepper spray, while his son Paul White, from Stonebridge Avenue in Conlig, faces two charges of fraud by false representation and two of false accounting
A detective constable told the court that although the police investigation is in its infancy, "every customer is a potential victim" and that he believed he can connect both men to the charges.
He recounted how the investigation began after police received a complaint from Barr Hall residential home in Portaferry about the amount of oil it was burning, so decided to monitor the tank. The officer told the court that on December 20 there were 900 litres in the 2,500 litre-capacity tank, with a delivery of 2,000 litres ordered for the next day.
Despite the fact the tank wasn't big enough, when officers dipped it following the delivery from D White and Sons, there was only 2,400 litres in it.
The officer said that during follow-up searches at the firm's office and the defendants' homes, officers seized over £20,000 in cash along with numerous diaries, delivery dockets and invoices, adding that it is the police view that delivery figures and invoices do not tally up.
He claimed a diary which was examined contained various figures which officers believed was the amount of oil they were skimming off deliveries, adding "every customer is a potential victim".
The prohibited weapons were uncovered at the home of Robert White and during later interviews he admitted having them, although the officer said both men denied any fraudulent behaviour.
Under cross-examination from solicitor Ivor Moffett, the detective agreed there were no other victims at present but repeated that "every customer of White and Sons is a potential victim", and further agreed if the pair surrendered their passports that would assuage police concerns they might flee the country.
Judge Hamill released the pair on their own bail of £500, ordered them to hand over their passports, not to contact any of their customers, and ordered them to appear again next month.