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Judge warns former Econo Fuels driver: Tell truth or face consequences

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By RYNE R. MARTIN

CANTON - An Ogdensburg man was warned Monday he needed to share more details about his theft of approximately $25,000 of fuel from Econo Fuels when he was employed there as a driver or plan for a stay in state prison.

Ernest W. Brothers, 39, of 524 Covington St., Ogdensburg, had pleaded guilty to third-degree grand larceny, a class-D felony.

The plea bargain agreement called for Brothers to be sentenced to probation and ordered to pay $15,742.69 in restitution if he complied with the term of one year on interim probation. If not, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Brothers, an ex-driver for Econo Fuels Inc., admitted during a July court appearance he had never delivered $12,000 worth of fuel. He was indicted in November 2011.

He was scheduled to be sentenced Monday, but St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Becker pointed to a discrepancy between Brothers’ admissions when he made his guilty plea and the statement he made when he was being interviewed by a probation officer during his pre-sentence investigation.

He noted Brothers told the probation department he stole $25,000 worth of fuel, not the $12,000 he told the court when he was pleading guilty to the grand larceny charge. Mr. Becker also suggested Brothers needed to share with prosecutors the names of the people who had purchased the stolen fuel oil from him under the terms of the plea bargain agreement.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards warned Brothers he needed to cooperate with prosecutors and provide them with the names of the recipients of the stolen fuel. He also pointed out the probation department had received anonymous reports Brothers had been violating the conditions of his release under the supervision of the probation department by consuming alcohol at home and entering establishments where alcohol is sold for on-premises consumption.

“This is not a game. If you want to play a game, you better be aware of the consequences. The consequences are incarceration,” Judge Richards said.

He pointed out the value of the stolen fuel could be in the $27,000 range. “Either we will get to the bottom of it or somebody is going to pay the consequences. If you want to accept the consequences, cover for all the people you sold to, you can go to prison or you can tell the truth and get the benefits of your plea,” the county court judge added, referring to a plea deal that would keep Brothers out of jail or prison.

Judge Richards adjourned sentencing to Oct. 22 and continued Brothers’ release under the supervision of the probation department.

Massena-based state police said in March 2011 Brothers falsified business records on several occasions by signing Econo Fuels delivery tickets for fuel that had not been delivered to customers.

Brothers claimed to have made several deliveries of diesel fuel to Alcoa East, including 475.1 and 175 gallons on Aug. 10, 2011; 500 and 200 gallons on Aug. 19, 2011; 225 and 450 gallons of on Aug. 26, 2011; 550 and 230 gallons on Sept. 23, 2011; and 200 and 500 gallons on Oct. 15, 2011.

He also claimed to have off-loaded 950.3 gallons of diesel fuel at Econo Fuels on Sept. 10. 2011.

The grand larceny charges stem from thefts that occurred between Aug. 10 and Oct. 15, 2011 when Brothers reported delivering fuel to Alcoa East but instead off-loaded it at an unknown location. On Sept. 10, he also reportedly claimed he had off-loaded fuel at Econo Fuels in the village of Massena, but instead off-loaded it at an unknown location.

Michael B. Darling, part owner of Econo Fuels, told police in a statement that he became suspicious after receiving a call from Alcoa on Sept. 27, 2011 telling him they had run out of diesel fuel.

Mr. Darling said he reviewed his records and video from the Alcoa East front gate and determined that Brothers had not signed in or out of Alcoa on any of the dates when he was reportedly making deliveries.

In other county court action Monday before Judge Richards:

■ Troy Barkley, 34, formerly of Waddington had his probationary sentence vacated and was resentenced to serve one to three years in state prison for a felony driving while intoxicated conviction. He was also sentenced to a three-year conditional discharge following his release from probation despite the opposition of St. Lawrence County Public Defender Stephen Button.

Barkley admitted he had three convictions outside New York state - entering guilty pleas to third-degree criminal restraint and fourth-degree criminal sexual contact in January 2010 and contempt of court in December 2009.

■ Nolan P. Mitchell, 23, of 6 Maple St., Norfolk, was sent back to the St. Lawrence County Correctional Facility with no bail following his initial appearance on an alleged violation of probation.

Probation officials alleged Mitchell had violated the terms of his release under probation supervision on a pending third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance charge by being charged Sept. 16 with aggravated driving while intoxicated in the village of Massena. He reportedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.21 percent.

Mr. Button said his client was interested in receiving treatment. “He needs help,” the public defender told the court.

The judge directed the probation department to have Mitchell evaluated for alcohol and substance abuse issues.

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