The 43-year-old entrepreneur was given three-months suspended sentence after admitting 144 cases of fraud on motorways between Marseille and the Spanish border on the A9 and A61 motorways.
He needed to save on “very high tolls”, he claimed, to pay social security contributions and keep his business afloat.
The case is the latest in a number that have brought to light widespread swindling which has led the motorway operator, Vinci, to sue cheating bosses and even complain to the road haulage arm of the state railway company, the SNCF.
“Heavy-goods vehicles had made 3.5-kilometre journeys in 25 hours and 30 minutes,” presiding magistrate declared.
Two methods of cheating at the toll booths have come to light:
Drivers falsely claim to have lost their ticket and then swap with others going in the opposite direction at service areas where they can cross over the road; Stolen or tampered bankers’ cards are sold for as little as 10 euros a piece.
“Every European lorry driver who takes the A9 knows how to pick up bankers’ cards that have been stolen or tampered with,” the accused told the court. “You just have to stop at one of the service areas near Perpignan.”
In July Vinci wrote to the SNCF’s road haulage arm, Geodis, claiming that it was losing 1.25 million euros a year to organised fraud and alleging that many of the perpetrators were of Romanian origin, according to Le Parisien newspaper.
In May a Geodis sub-contractor was found guilty of 246 cases of fraud and given an eight-month suspended sentence.
Two Romanian drivers with Geodis subsidiary Giraud Iberica were given suspended sentences after admitting to fraud and breaking through barriers.
One of them was ordered to compensate Vinci for 5,615 euros of lost tolls. He said that Giraud Iberica deducted sums from his salary according to how many tickets he handed to them.