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Tom Dennis, of Deal, fiddled nearly £5,000 from his employers' fuel card in one month

A man fiddled nearly £5,000 from his employers' fuel card in just a month, a court heard.

Tom Dennis ratcheted up the bill during his firm's Christmas break and while off sick, when he would have no right to use the card, he also let friends milk from it.

The card could be used for both petrol and diesel. Picture: istock
The card could be used for both petrol and diesel. Picture: istock

But Dennis was given a suspended prison sentence after magistrates heard of his deep remorse and the fact that he had suffered mental health issues.

Lewis Aldous, prosecuting, told the court that over a month exactly £4,668.04 of fuel had been fraudulently bought, adding up to 2,788 litres of petrol or diesel, in a total 56 transactions.

Margate magistrates heard that Dennis, of Freemens Way, Deal, had worked as a delivery driver for Castles Removals in the town's Southwall Road.

The card was only meant for work trips so he would have no reason to use it during the firm's Christmas break from December 23 to January 4 last winter, when works vehicles were left idle in the yard.

According to the charge sheet, it was misused from December 23 until January 27, the last period being when he was officially off sick with an injured ankle.

"We felt this was a big slap in the face..."

Mr Aldous said: "The fuel card was used a number of times over a period when it should not have been.

"Mr Dennis was called to the office to discuss this but he said he was in London so couldn't attend but he was seen locally about 10 minutes before."

Castle Removals contacted the fuel card providers and from there local garages were traced to get CCTV to try to find who was using the card. It was eventually found that a number of people had done so, said Mr Aldous.

Dennis was arrested in late February and told police that his boss had accepted a repayment plan and claimed there was an email saying this.

In an impact statement to the court, the company's director, Peter Varrall said: "We treated Tom with respect. We felt this was a big slap in the face.

Tom Dennis, left, and Peter Varrall in a still from a past promotion video for Castles Removals. Picture: Castles Removals
Tom Dennis, left, and Peter Varrall in a still from a past promotion video for Castles Removals. Picture: Castles Removals

"We are a small company and were affected by the pandemic and had to make cutbacks.

"His actions meant other people's jobs were at risk. It cost us a huge amount of money in a short space of time."

Dennis, 31, pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation.

Roger Davies, for Dennis, said: "He was shocked at how many times he had done it.

"He knows he had betrayed decent employers. He is remorseful for letting down himself and his employers."

Mr Davies said his client had at first thought he had been "generous" by letting others use the card.

But he added that Dennis ended up suffering mental health issues and went to get help from professionals. He was diagnosed with depression and anxiety and was getting further treatment.

Probation officer Richard Tebbutt-Ford told the court: "He is disgusted with himself. He wholeheartedly wants to pay back the money he has cheated out of this man."

The court heard that Dennis has two children from a previous relationship whom he still sees. He and his present partner are expecting a baby in August.

Margate Magistrates Court. Picture: Roger Charles
Margate Magistrates Court. Picture: Roger Charles

He now has two jobs, as a groundworker five days a week and a barman at a pub in Sandwich three nights a week.

The court heard Dennis had a previous conviction, for drink-driving.

On sentencing Richard Henderson, chairman of the bench, told Dennis, "This has crossed the custody threshhold.

"The reason are the absolute breach of trust of an employer, the frequency of the use of the card and letting others benefit.

"But we are encouraged by what probation says and that you are motivated to pay back."

Dennis was given a 16-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.

He was also ordered to carry out 40 hours of unpaid work plus undertake 30 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement Days.

In addition he was made to pay back the £4,668.04 in compensation plus £85 court costs and a £128 victim surcharge.

During the same hearing, Dennis also pleaded guilty to driving without third party insurance in Deal on January 18.

For this an existing six penalty points on his licence were reimposed, he was banned from driving for 30 days and fined £100.

Dennis' total bill from the court adds up to £4.981.04.

After the case Mr Varrall told KentOnline: "I think this was a fair sentence.

"I am glad it is over. It was a worry for me wondering if the police would have enough evidence to press charges.

"I still feel sadness over this. Thousands of people have company fuel cards and they are issued on trust.

"On December 23 when we closed for the festive period, we all wished each other a happy and enjoyable break and the company had given staff a Christmas box for their efforts during the year.

"That same evening Dennis embarked on robbing us on an industrial scale, so I still feel let down and disappointed.

"At the time it had an effect on our cash flow and we have tightened up the use of fuel cards."

Mr Varrall said the company managed to get over the financial loss and he was pleased with the way police investigated.

But he added: "Personally I found it very stressful and still feel let down by a member of staff."

Castles Removals transports, delivers and stores furniture and equipment when people move house or companies change locations.

Mr Varrall said Dennis first worked for the firm from 2013 to 2016 and on this last occasion for six months.

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