A businessman who stole £750,000 to help his struggling North Yorkshire-based company stay afloat has been sentenced to more than two-and-a-half years' imprisonment.
Peter John Robinson, aged 68, of Great Lumley, Chester-le-Street, was jailed for 32 months when he appeared before Teesside Crown Court on Thursday 20 September 2012.
Robinson pleaded guilty to 16 charges, including fraud by false representation, theft, and obtaining property by deception, at an earlier hearing in August.
In April 2011 the Official Receiver contacted North Yorkshire Police to report concerns about the financial activities of RHM Tank Sales - the company Robinson was an equal partner in, which was based in Marton-cum-Grafton near Boroughbridge.
The company was suspected of obtaining fraudulent finance agreements for lorry trailers and tankers.
When RHM Tank Sales was declared bankrupt in April 2011 they were unable to return their assets to their creditors, who complained to the Official Receiver.
Action was taken through the civil courts, resulting in some of the money the company owed being repaid. However officers from North Yorkshire Police's Financial Investigation Unit began criminal proceedings after nine asset finance companies made complaints.
Officers discovered that Robinson's company would enter into credit agreements with finance companies to fund the purchase of tankers or trailers, which they would either sell or rent out in order to make a profit.
Some of the containers were financed and then sold on without notification to the creditors, some of them were financed with more than one company and some of the financed trailers didn't exist at all.
When questioned by officers, following his arrest in August 2011, Robinson admitted to fraudulently raising finance and selling trailers which did not belong to his company on 16 occasions between 2006 and 2010.
Detective Sergeant Dave Edwards, of North Yorkshire Police's Financial lnvestigation Unit, said: "The credit crunch has led to the discovery of numerous fraudulent business dealings and this is just one example.
"RHM were able to obtain credit with ease from finance companies who were eager to provide capital without necessarily checking that assets actually existed.
"Robinson began his fraudulent activities in an attempt to keep his business afloat during the economic downturn and said he had planned to replace the vehicles when business improved.
"However, his offences came to light when he was unable to maintain the repayments against the vehicles and companies started to repossess RHM's property.
"Following the conclusion of civil court proceedings, during which some of the money which was owed was repaid, Robinson's actions were brought to our attention.
"It is difficult to imagine how his company could make money while selling vehicles from their fleet which were meant to generate their income. In Mr Robinson's own words he was 'robbing Peter to pay Paul'.
"Anyone thinking of going down the same road as Robinson should think again as you will be caught and will most likely be given a custodial sentence."
Robinson's business partner was also arrested during the police investigation but was released without charge.
21 September 2012