A DAD stole diesel from petrol stations so he could fill up his car to visit his son.
Leslie Taylor took number plates from parked motors and used them to cover up his own vehicle’s registration.
He then simply filled up at petrol stations and drove off without paying.
Newcastle Crown Court heard inquiries would then lead back to the innocent owners whose number plates had been taken.
Taylor was collared when one garage attendant recognised his car, even with the false plates, and contacted the police.
The 52-year-old, of Wolseley Terrace, Sunderland, admitted theft charges relating to the number plates and about £500-worth of petrol.
The offences took place between September last year and January this year.
Glen Gatland, defending, said Taylor had been travelling from Sunderland to Gateshead and back three times a day to see his son and was struggling to meet the costs while on benefits.
Mr Gatland said: “Because he could find no way to get money for the fuel to travel from Sunderland to Gateshead and back three times per day he got himself into this position.”
Mr Gatland said Taylor, a self-taught mechanic who has a long criminal record, is hoping to set up his own business.
Mr Recorder Mark Gargan sentenced Taylor to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with supervision.