Down dad and son jailed over £100k home heating oil skimming con
A father and son were jailed yesterday after defrauding their customers out of £100,000 of fuel in a home heating oil skimming racket.
Passing sentence at Downpatrick Crown Court, Judge Piers Grant told Robert White and his son Paul White that their crimes against householders and businesses were "clearly planned and premeditated''.
The pair pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and acquiring criminal property, which was the money they made in the oil fraud.
The judge handed a 15-month sentence to Robert White (56), of Creightons Green Road, in Holywood, Co Down, saying he would spend seven-and-a-half months in custody with the remainder on supervised licence following his release.
The judge described him as the "main instigator'' in the fraud, whereby 50 litres of a 500-litre delivery and 100 litres of a 1,000-litre delivery were "stolen from customers over a five-year period, put back on the truck and recycled to other customers giving you 100% profit".
Judge Grant added: "This was easy for you to carry out but it was also difficult to detect.
"This was a serious breach of trust between you and your customers who trusted a family-run business and who they believed could be relied upon to deliver the appropriate quantity of fuel they had paid for.
"It was only by sheer good fortune that some of the customers had detected that they were not receiving the full amount of oil and the matter was reported to the police."
Paul White (36), of the same address, was told he would spend six months in custody followed by a further six months on licence.
The judge told him that he had a "lesser role" in that he had been involved in the fraud for four years but added that he had "actively participated" knowing that what was taking place was fraudulent.
His mother Wendy White (56) had pleaded guilty to a single charge under the 2002 Proceeds of Crime Act that on dates between January 1, 2010 and January 1, 2014, she "entered into or became concerned in an arrangement which she knew or suspected facilitated (by whatever means) the acquisition, retention, use or control of criminal property". Judge Grant told her that despite the seriousness of the offences, she was being spared prison "by the skin of your teeth" and imposed a community service order of 150 hours. He said that during the course of police investigations "significant quantities of cash were found at the family home", which was the money the trio had made from the oil fraud.
Judge Grant said that Wendy White's responsibility as the company's book-keeper and administrator was to make annual VAT returns to HM Revenue and Customs, but she had failed to do so.
He added that over a five-year period, the loss in VAT to HM Revenue and Customs was £33,230.
All three had no previous convictions for fraud but the judge told them: "You now have criminal records for serious offences."
Downpatrick Crown Court had previously heard that the oil fraud racket run by the Whites came to light in late 2013.
Prosecutor Philip Henry said the PSNI started an investigation 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 court heard that on December 20, 2013 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 were only 2,400 litres in it.
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, which did not appear to tally up.
A diary contained various figures which officers believed was the amount of oil they were skimming off deliveries.
Judge Grant said that the family home was now up for sale. He adjourned confiscation proceedings to recover the £100,000 defrauded from customers until March next year.