Businessman jailed over fraud to bankroll recession-hit business

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A businessman who tried to keep his failing partnership going by obtaining hundreds of thousands of pounds through fraud has been jailed for 32 months.

Peter Robinson’s firm RHM Tank Sales, based near Boroughbridge, took out credit agreements with finance companies to fund the purchase of tankers or trailers.

But when his business was hit by the recession he obtained finance on some vehicles with more than one company without disclosing the position to the creditors. He also took out finance on other vehicles which did not exist at all and illegally sold off others on which finance was still owing, Teesside Crown Court heard yesterday.

Robinson, 68 of Norwich Close, Great Lumley, Chester-le-Street, County Durham, admitted 13 charges of fraud and theft.

Sentencing him Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC said Robinson had created false documents and carried on a charade to convince the companies providing finance that everything was all right.

He accepted the offences were not motivated by personal greed and were put into the business to try to keep it afloat but an immediate sentence could not be avoided.

David Brooke, prosecuting, said the Crown estimated the loss at £650,000 although the defence maintained it was no more than £440,000.

The offences came to light after some repayments on vehicles were not made and checks were made at the premises.

Robinson admitted some of the vehicles on which he had obtained finance did not exist. He also admitted on occasions forging the signature of his partner, who lived in Holmfirth. That man was questioned but faced no charges.

Ian West, for Robinson, said he had been in gainful employment since leaving school and had built up a successful partnership buying and leasing trailers and bulk tankers from France and Germany, up to 60 a year. But when prices increased there that dropped to around 15 a year and the firm struggled financially.

He realised he should have closed the partnership but instead made the mistaken decision to obtain the finance, expecting the recession would end quicker and he could pay the money involved. Instead he found himself “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.