Ruttley fuel scam drags on

Court case looms for worker accused of $1.5 million fuel scam, while co-accused wait to learn their fate

By Samantha Freestone | March 22, 2010

An alleged fuel scam involving Ruttley’s Freightlines stretching back to 2008 may not be resolved until the second half of this year, while the hunt continues for another suspect.

Three of the four accused of stealing fuel from the operator at a cost of $1.5 million have had their cases adjourned until June 9, Investigator Sergeant of the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) Greg Teesdale says.

Police allege Ruttley employees Peter Howarth and Robb Morrison gave a company fuel card to owner-drivers Laurie Jones and Brett Smith to use despite the fact both did not work for the company.

Morrison is due to face court on 85 counts of theft on April 1, with Teesdale expecting him to plead guilty.

But he says the other three will argue their innocence when they face court on June 9.

"They are saying they are not guilty of the offences including theft of petrol," Teesdale says.

After locating a Queensland man wanted for questioning over the incident, Teesdale says police are still looking for a Melbourne owner-driver suspected of involvement.

"If anyone has any information as to their whereabouts please call the Footscray police station or call crime stoppers," Teesdale says.

Howarth has also been charged with 85 counts of theft in a scam police say happened between July 2008 and May 2009.

Jones has been charged with 43 counts of theft.

The NSW-based Ruttley Freightlines operates interstate with about 130 prime movers. Owner Bob Ruttley says his company spends more than $3 million a month on fuel.

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