Ruttley fuel scam pleas: not guilty, not present

Ruttley Freightlines 'fuel scam' employee pleads not guilty, another has warrant out for arrest

Ruttley fuel scam pleas: not guilty, not present
Rutley fuel scam pleas: not guilty, not present
By Samantha Freestone | October 8, 2009

One ex-Ruttley Freightlines employee charged with a massive fuel scam has pleaded not guilty, while another has a warrant out for his arrest after failing to appear at a hearing in Melbourne today.

Four individuals are alleged to be involved in the theft of fuel from the company, including ex-employees Peter Howarth and Robb Morrison and sub-contractors Brett Smith and Laurie Jones.

Howarth pleaded not guilty to the charges in the Melbourne Magistrate's Court today, with his lawyer critical of a lack of evidence from police.

Morrison failed to appear and has been issued with a warrant for his arrest. A faxed medical certificate was presented to court but Magistrate Felicity Broughton deemed it insufficient.

The case has now been adjourned until January 28 as a contest mention, where all four individuals "will most likely" be heard at once.

They are charged with a combined 170 counts of theft in what prosecutors call a "fuel card scam" dating back to June last year.

Michael Gleeson, representing Howarth, complained he had only been presented with a summary of allegations and two statements "with no evidence".

Victorian prosecutor for the case Robert Palmerston says they are still investigating and "are looking to enhance our evidence".

"There are still people to be interviewed and that is why the investigation is still ongoing," he told the court.

"Over a period of time we have gathered evidence. We are trying to make this as least complicated as possible because with four people involved a matter of this nature could go on for weeks."

Smith is charged with 47 counts of theft for allegedly purchasing stolen fuel from Howarth and Morrison.

Greg Teesdale from the Altona Criminal Investigation Unit says prosecutors have all of the necessary evidence but it needs to be formalised.

He refused to comment on how confident he was as to a conviction.

"I don’t want to say, I never pre-empt anything," he told ATN.

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