Jail sentences for sellers of illicit fuel

Five people, including the former owners of a Sussex petrol station have been sentenced for distributing and selling an estimated 4.8 million litres of illicit fuel to unsuspecting motorists, including haulage companies across the south east.

Darren Chapman beside the Bentley, bought with the proceeds of his crime

They were given jail sentences totalling more than 16 years.

Brothers Dean Chapman, 43, from Romford, Essex, and Darren Chapman, 50 from Rochester, Kent illegally mixed kerosene with diesel and sold it as a legitimate road fuel to motorists at their petrol station in 2012 and 2013.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers found quantities of kerosene at Pulborough petrol station in 2013.  It was discovered through routine checks of the petrol station’s underground tanks as well as the fuel tanks of two vehicles, which were both seized.

HMRC investigations found that Christopher Reardon, 56, from Hastings, supplied kerosene to the Chapmans and falsified 679 sales invoices to hide the true identity of his customers in an attempt to disguise the fraudulent scheme.

As a registered dealer in controlled oils (RDCO), Reardon had a responsibility to check the fuel sold was being used for a legitimate purpose, his failure to do so resulted in this fraud being able to be committed.

“The gang knew what they were doing was wrong, but even after being challenged by HMRC officers and investigated by Trading Standards’ officers, they continued to flout the law and sell illegal fuel, which damaged vehicles’ engines and resulted in a tax loss of nearly £3.5 million,” said Richard Wilkinson, assistant director, fraud investigation service, HMRC.

The gang used biodiesel supplied by Carole O’Hara, 68, and Peter O’Hara, 72, both from Hastings, who falsified invoices and HMRC returns to show lower rates of excise duty and VAT, which reduced tax liability.

The illicit mix was never properly labelled so that customers did not realise they were buying fuel with high percentages of biodiesel.  As a result, customers began experiencing problems with their cars which were reported to West Sussex Trading Standards.

His honour judge Lucas, who sentenced Darren and Dean Chapman, described Darren as ‘dishonest and prepared to break the law when it suits you’ while Dean ‘took to dishonesty with enthusiasm.’

 

 

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