Brewery driver liked to take work home - ten pallets a day March 20, 2004 A group of truck drivers made an art form of stealing large quantities of beer, writes Brad Norington. When it came to stealing beer, he was an expert. Contracted as a Linfox truck driver to transport Carlton & United beer, Philip Ellul's favourite ploy was to load one extra pallet, worth more than $3000, on his truck when he made deliveries. The checker at the Linfox warehouse - whose job was to confirm quantities were correct - would mark the load one short. By the late 1990s, the embarrassingly large quantity of beer that went missing from Linfox warehouses at Clyde and Mascot became too obvious for management to overlook. One early investigation by the company led to the sacking of several drivers - but Mr Ellul eluded detection and appeared not to change his habits. He was exposed only after an undercover police officer, "Max", was employed as a checker and gained Mr Ellul's confidence. Police originally charged Mr Ellul with stealing beer worth $1.2 million and removed a large quantity of beer from his home. But the charge was later dropped, and he pleaded guilty to stealing an amount worth $9990. Mr Ellul and an accomplice, William Cassar, were sentenced to periodic detention, which they have since completed. The story is not over for Linfox, or Mr Ellul. After unsuccessfully making demands for repayment for lost beer, Linfox's solicitors, Corrs Chambers Wesgarth, are taking civil action against Mr Ellul, Mr Cassar and Mr Ellul's former wife, Diana, seeking more than $400,000 in damages. Evidence about the amount of beer stolen has been heard in the NSW Supreme Court from three management witnesses, including Michael Byrne, a senior executive, and Max, whose real name cannot be disclosed. Linfox's barrister, Arthur Moses, told the court Mr Ellul had admitted to Max he had been stealing beer for "well over 12 months" and had earnt more than $170,000 from its sale. "He also admitted to stealing up to 10 pallets of beer in one day from Linfox and admitted that in his best week of beer from Linfox he made $25,000," Mr Moses said. According to evidence from a Linfox employee, another method of Mr Ellul and other drivers involved making unscheduled stops to liquor outlets. A driver would privately sell a few kegs, pocket the money, then resume his journey. Once at his destination, the driver told the customer that several kegs were damaged and asked the customer to sign for them. Back at the Linfox warehouse, there were few checks of damaged kegs and so the thefts went unnoticed. Mr Ellul refused to give evidence on the grounds that it might incriminate him. Justice Tim Studdert has reserved his decision. Can anybody say "inventory control"?