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Former Econo Fuels driver jailed without bail for violating release conditions

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CANTON - A former Econo Fuels driver awaiting sentencing for a grand larceny conviction has been jailed without bail after the court ruled he violated his release conditions by possessing alcohol.

St. Lawrence County Court Judge Jerome J. Richards had warned Ernest W. Brothers, 39, of 524 Covington St., Ogdensburg, on Sept. 24 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. He had adjourned his sentencing for a third-degree grand larceny conviction until Oct. 22.

Judge Richards had warned Brothers at that time 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.

But Brothers was back in court Tuesday after he was picked up on a bench warrant for allegedly violating the conditions of his release under probation supervision.

Judge Richards noted the probation department had filed a uniform court report on Oct. 4 indicating a senior probation officer had seen Brothers carrying a 30 pack of beer the previous day at an Ogdensburg drug store. The report also indicated a probation assistant had spotted three empty beer containers in Brothers’ garage during a home visit.

“My client will not attempt to deny any of this,” St. Lawrence County Public Defender Steven Button said.

But he said Brothers assured him the beer boxes in his garage were stored near his burn barrel and were not from recent usage.

He also stressed his client had not purchased the beer Oct. 3 at the drug store. “I don’t know if it is because he saw a probation officer in the aisle, but he opted not to do it,” the public defender said.

St. Lawrence County Assistant District Attorney Jonathan L. Becker recommended Brothers either be sent back to jail or the court move directly to sentencing, suggesting Brothers’ violation of his release conditions meant the court was no longer bound by a plea bargain agreement not to sentence the Ogdensburg man to jail or prison.

Judge Richards sent Brothers back to the county jail without bail pending sentencing on Oct. 22.

The plea bargain agreement had 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 Sept. 24, but Mr. Becker that day 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.

“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 during the September court appearance.

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.

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, 2011, 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.

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