A home heating oil distributor and his son who defrauded their customers by charging them for more fuel than was actually delivered have been jailed.
Robert Stephen White (56) and Paul White (36) were both sentenced at Downpatrick Crown Court for Fraud by False Representation between January 1 2009 and January 1st 2014 and Acquiring Criminal Property between January 1 2009 and January 1st 2014.
Robert Stephen White received a 15-month custodial sentence – 7.5 months in custody and 7.5 months on licence.
Paul White received a 12 month custodial sentence – 6 months in custody and 6 months on licence.
Wendy White (56), the wife of Robert Stephen White and mother of Paul White, received 150 hours community service order for entering into an arrangement to acquire criminal property from 01.01.10 to 01.01.14. She undertook office-based work and book keeping duties. She dealt with telephone orders and completed administrative records for VAT, customs and accountants, and was based at the home address Creighton’s Green Road, Holywood.
PSNI’s Detective Chief Inspector Mark Bell said: “The business operated on the trust of its customers who expected to receive the amount of fuel the defendants billed them for on each delivery. However they were defrauded by being charged for more fuel than was actually delivered.
“The offending went undetected for a number of years and involved a level of sophistication to perfect the offending, manipulating the checks and balances put in place to try and prevent this type of crime from occurring. Among the victims of the business was nursing home, Barr Hall in Portaferry and the Girl Guides Association in Lorne.
“The calculated and cunning actions of Stephen White and Paul White were despicable. They breached the trust of their loyal customers by swindling them over a five-year period. Not once did they stop and think, or care, about the impact of their callous actions.
“We hope their sentences bring some level of comfort to the victims who were conned by these merciless criminals. The public should be relieved they have been caught and are no longer able to operate their fraudulent business having been brought before the courts today.”
Stephen White and Paul White ran an oil delivery company, D White & Sons, from Creighton’s Green Road, in Holywood.
DCI Bell added: “In December 2013 police became aware that management at Barr Hall Residential Home in Portaferry had become increasingly concerned about their oil usage. Police examined invoices for oil delivery from D White & Sons and became suspicious of the lengthy delivery times on the invoice. Given these suspicions it was agreed police monitor the oil tank at Barr Hall daily to establish if, at the time of the next oil delivery, there was anything suspicious.
“After a period of monitoring as well as follow-up searches at the company office and the company address, police seized more than £20,000 in cash, along with diaries, delivery dockets and invoices.
"More than four and a half thousand delivery invoices were examined by investigators for the 2013 period alone. The outcome of this examination proved D White & Sons delivered over 36,136 litres more oil than they ever purchased from their oil supplier BP during 2013."
On inspection, police found the delivery figures and invoices did not tally. One of the diaries contained figures which showed amounts of oil the pair were skimming from deliveries.
“Police stopped the D White & Sons oil delivery lorry on its way to a delivery in the Holywood area. They were both arrested for fraud by false representation at Barr Hall on 21st December 2013. After the initial arrest and press coverage, other customers came forward with their delivery invoices raising concerns that they had been defrauded, including the Girl Guides Association.
Girlguiding Ulster Executive Manager, Claire Flowers, said: “We were very shocked and disheartened to learn that a trusted local family firm were defrauding the Association.
“We had started putting energy efficiency savings in place due to the substantial amount of oil we were using. We had spent money on pipe lagging, radiator reflectors, increased insulation and replaced windows in a bid to help with the huge oil bills. To then find out that this family firm who had had a trusted relationship with Girlguiding Ulster, were in fact defrauding us of oil, was extremely shocking and a huge abuse of trust.”
David Blevings from the Northern Ireland Oil Federation said: “The fraudulent actions of the Whites is reprehensible and the local oil industry is shocked. D White & Son were not a member of the NI Oil Federation, or any recognised trade association. This is an isolated case and we believe, the first of its kind in the UK and Ireland and want to reassure oil users that the sector is regulated by having standards and safeguards in place.