A ‘BRASS-FACED’ crook who filled up his own car, friends’ vehicles and jerry cans using a company fuel card has narrowly avoided jail.

Darren Stanley racked up more than £7,000 worth of false claims during his four-month long spree of offending where he regularly attended a Shell garage in Darlington to fill up.

The defendant was shaking nervously in the dock when the judge passed an 18-month prison sentence suspended for two years after he pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 40-year-old initially started filling his own car with fuel, but he soon moved on to selling it to friends as a bid to raise money.

Harry Hadfield, prosecuting, said his fraud only came to light when checks were made on his fuel use by his then-employer Milestone Flooring.

Over the four-and-a-half month period Stanley, now of Romney Avenue, Washington, would regularly put £80 worth of fuel in people’s vehicles and pocket the £60 they paid him for it, while leaving his employer to foot the bill.

Darlington and Stockton Times:

The Shell garage on Woodland Road, Darlington. Picture: GOOGLE

He said: “One thing they did was ring up the Shell garage in Darlington, which was the one he went to the most, that witness told the company that the defendant came into the garage all of the time.

“He would attend with his own vehicle and a white Ford Transit driven by an elderly man, fill up and then the van would drive away, and the defendant would pay for the fuel on the company fuel card.

“They also said that the defendant would often fill up jerry cans as well – which he says he would sell on to people who would then return the empty can for him to fill up again.”

Mr Hadfield said the defendant claimed he had started offending after finding out that his partner had been diagnosed with cancer and developed a £200 cocaine habit to deal with the stress.

In mitigation, Stephen Constantine, said his client was sacked from his job but had managed to find a new job with another flooring company.

He said: “It was always going to be discovered. It was brazen, but in my submission, it was not sophisticated.

“The cocaine, he says, was a way of coping with the devastating news he had (about his partner’s cancer diagnosis) and he clearly wasn’t thinking rationally at the time, and some might say that he wasn’t thinking at all.”

Deputy Circuit Judge Jim Spencer QC described Stanley’s offending as ‘brass-faced’ and said he only stopped offending because he was caught.

He said: “It only lasted weeks over four months and therefore the amount involved is limited to £7,018.12 but I’m convinced that it would have gone on - it would have gone on because there was no reason for you to stop until you were stopped.

“It does show a degree of dishonesty and breach of trust which can’t be overlooked – you will have to pay the money back and that is only right.”