A forklift truck driver stole £250,000 of out-of-date medical supplies from the waste facility where they were to be destroyed so they could be sold on the black market.
Grzegorz Poppe used a truck to load items including nicotine patches and allergy medicine on to three waiting vans driven by his associates out of the Veolia Secure Destruction Unit on Tinsley Park Road.
The items have never been recovered and are thought to have been sold across South Yorkshire. Poppe, aged 41, of Corwen Place, Woodhouse, was jailed for eight months after admitting theft.
Sheffield Crown Court was told Veolia, which runs waste collection services for Sheffield Council, fear the case could lose the firm contracts from businesses who entrusted it to destroy waste.
The court heard the worker, who is originally from Poland, had taken part in the audacious theft to pay for his wife’s varicose vein operation.
Poppe said he had taken part in the theft after meeting a man in a pub and agreeing to do the job to cover medical treatment for his wife that was not available on the NHS.
Beverley Tait, prosecuting, said Poppe had worked for Veolia for 10 years and was responsible with one other colleague for locking up the yard where the items awaiting demolition were kept.
She said that while the other worker was on holiday, Poppe carried out the theft using a forklift truck to transport the items - being caught out when his manager looked at live footage from the site’s security cameras on his phone.
Among the stolen items were medicines and treatments for conditions such as eczema and hayfever, as well as diet pills and nicotine patches.
The court heard Poppe was asked to return the items but failed to do so and later contacted his boss asking him not to call the police.
Ms Tait said the retail value of the items if they had been in a suitable condition for sale was estimated at £250,000, while Veolia has had its reputation damaged by the theft.
She said the manager who uncovered the theft ‘thinks the company may lose hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of contracts because you have to be frank with those involved’.
Ms Tait said Poppe admitted his involvement in an interview with the police.
She said: “He said he had met a man called Phil in a bar and they had exchanged numbers.
“The defendant rang Phil to say the nicotine patches were ready. He said he received no payment up front.”
The court heard Poppe had not provided police with any further details about ‘Phil’ and said he did not know where the items went.
Kevin Jones, defending, said his client made efforts to get the items returned to Veolia without success after the crime was uncovered.
He said: “The motive was to pay for medical treatment for his partner that is not available on the NHS.”
Mr Jones asked for Poppe to be given a suspended sentence as he is the sole earner for his family and his two children.
But judge Recorder Kramer said the offending was so serious only prison could be justified due to the ‘huge reputational damage’ to Veolia and making goods deemed unfit for use by the public ‘into circulation’.
He said it was difficult to establish the precise value of the goods that had been deemed worthless by their companies but were now being sold on at a knockdown price.
“Who knows where the items are? Maybe on the markets and being sold in the pubs of South Yorkshire as I speak,” he said.
“He was trying to raise money for his wife’s operation on her varicose veins.
“This was a breach of trust, not only to his employers but the public.”
Veolia has said it has reviewed its security procedures following the theft of out-of-date medical supplies from its site.
Robert Hunt, chief corporate officer of the French waste giant which is responsible for dealing with Sheffield’s rubbish on behalf of the city council, said changes have been made following the incident.
“This case relates to an incident a while ago involving a member of staff who has now been dismissed,” he said.
“We take security issues extremely seriously and have reviewed our procedures to prevent any recurrence.”
The company’s secure destruction facility in Sheffield serves a wide variety of industries including pharmaceutical firms, as well as supermarkets, dairies and Custom and Excise.
According to the company’s promotional materials, it offers a ‘one stop solution to organisations that need to ensure that their waste products will never reappear in any form in the market place’.
It states that it can destroy recalled, inferior and out-of-date goods, as well as damaged products, to ‘protect both product and client integrity’.