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Men jailed for stealing cooking oil
4:32pm Tuesday 18th December 2012 in News
TWO men have been jailed for stealing used cooking oil from take-away restaurants and supermarkets in a nationwide scam.
Stuart Bradley, 38 and Matthew Walker, 27, both from Stourport, were sentenced to two years behind bars for conspiracy to de-fraud and conspiracy to steal.
They masterminded an elaborate plan to steal used oil from companies such as KFC and then sell this on so that it could be converted into bio-diesel.
The pair were arrested in the early hours of February by officers who were searching the area for a suspicious vehicle after an alarm on an oil tank at KFC in Merry Hill was activated.
When asked about their movements, the friends claimed to have been looking for somewhere to eat.
Doubting their honesty, officers searched their hired white Transit van and discovered a vat of foul smelling used cooking oil and a homemade siphoning kit.
When quizzed about the contents, they changed their story and claimed to be workers for a waste company who had been legitimately collecting the oil.
With the two in custody, enquiries were undertaken and detectives quickly discovered a spate of identical but unsolved offences dating from November 2011 to February 2012 in Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Derby, Worcester, Loughborough, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stoke-On-Trent, Leicester, Stockport and Dudley.
In all of the offences, a Transit style van had been spotted in the area around the time crimes. Checks later proved that every vehicle associated with the crime reports had been loaned to the pair by unsuspecting van hire companies.
Bradley and Walker were charged and appeared at Dudley Magistrates Court in July. There, the bench released the men on court bail pending a trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.
A short time after their release, detectives became aware of new spate of similar crimes targeting Asda, Tesco and Morrisons supermarkets the length and breadth of Britain.
Concerned that the men were re-offending, local detectives immediately launched an investigation into the new offences.
Like the original crimes, officers established that the men had been operating as waste removal staff having created a company with an almost identical name to that of a lawfully operating oil recycling company which had national contracts to remove the used fat from the three supermarket chains.
Bradley and Walker’s uniform, paperwork and identification so closely resembled that of official contractors that staff were unaware that they had been scammed.
The stolen oil would then be sold at a premium to a processing company who converted it into eco-friendly biodiesel.
The two men were re-arrested in September and remanded in custody until October where they pleaded guilty. Stuart Bradley and Matthew Walker were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court last Friday.
In total, West Midlands detectives identified 227 oil theft offences resulting in a loss of £71,380 for the company Bradley and Walker’s scam operation so closely resembled with an additional £76,000 worth of oil stolen from KFC.
Detective Constable Gareth Homer led the investigation. “This was one of the most elaborate crimes and complex investigations I have ever undertaken,” said Det Con Homer.
“On the face of it, the crimes of Bradley and Walker may seem harmless enough, but with so many businesses that employ local people struggling to make ends meet in these tough times, sustained losses on this scale could have very well meant they went under resulting in lost jobs.”