Five people, including the former owners of a Sussex petrol station, have been sentenced for distributing and selling an estimated 4.8 million litres of illicit fuel to motorists and haulage companies across the south east of England

Three were given jail sentences totalling more than 16 years. Brothers Dean Chapman, 43, from Romford, Essex, and Darren Chapman, 50, from Rochester, Kent, illegally mixed kerosene with diesel and sold it as legitimate road fuel to motorists at their petrol station in 2012 and 2013.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers found quantities of kerosene at a petrol station in Pulborough, West Sussex, in 2013. It was discovered during routine checks of the petrol station’s underground diesel tank as well as the fuel tanks of two vehicles, which were both seized.

HMRC investigators found that Christopher Reardon, 56, from Hastings, supplied kerosene to the Chapmans and falsified 679 sales invoices to hide the true identity of his customers in an attempt to disguise their fraudulent scheme.

As a registered dealer in controlled oils (RDCO), Reardon had a responsibility to check the fuel sold was being used for a legitimate purpose, his failure to do so resulted in this fraud being able to be committed.

Despite HMRC’s intervention and the investigation by West Sussex Trading Standards, the gang continued to carry out the fraud, switching from kerosene to biodiesel in an attempt to further their deception. This led to the investigation by HMRC.