Yatala Pies
Yatala Pies

Pie shop owners sue long-time friend for $1.5m

THE Queensland family that owns one of the state's most famous pie shops is suing its long-time friend and butcher, claiming he ripped them off to the tune of $1.5 million by undersupplying at least 261 tonnes of mince.

Yatala Pie Shop Pty Ltd, which has sold pies from its store between Brisbane and the Gold Coast for decades, has sued Carina Meat Supply Pty Ltd and its owner James "Jim" Cornell, 75, from Upper Mount Gravatt, in the Supreme Court in Brisbane alleging Mr Cornell deceitfully issued false invoices and falsely stated the weight of each fresh minced beef delivery for nearly three years.

Mr Cornell was trusted by Yatala Pie Shop's owners, the Porter family, and made the mince deliveries to Yatala's bakery personally six days a week, but was not the sole supplier of meat, court documents say.

The Porter family has had an almost lifelong friendship with Mr Cornell, and a business relationship that extends for more than 30 years, but it was cut short on October 14 when he was accused of theft and dumped as a supplier forcing him to close his business, court documents say.

Yatala Pie Shop's lawyers submitted that it had determined that Carina's delivery dockets were false based on calculations made by its accountant who compared the actual weight of meat deliveries on invoices with the number of pies sold, assuming the average weight of mince in a small pie is 207g, court documents say.

Yatala Pie Shop on the northern Gold Coast
Yatala Pie Shop on the northern Gold Coast

Accountant Donal Collins calculated the alleged undersupply between January 2017 and October 15 this year runs to 261 tonnes, but Charles Wilson, counsel for Yatala Pie Shop, submitted it could be as high as 378 tonnes.

Carina invoiced for 532 tonnes of meat during that period but only actually delivered as little as 270 tonnes, Yatala Pie Shop alleges in court documents. Mr Wilson argues the undersupply is not an innocent mistake.

"The size, regularity and sustained nature of the undersupply was significant, and consistent only with fraud," Mr Wilson stated in court documents.

However the documents stated Yatala Pie Shop failed to weigh the deliveries at the time they arrived or later.

Nick Ferrett QC, counsel for Mr Cornell, said there was no direct evidence of deceit, Yatala Pie Shop's case was weak, and the $1.5 million undersupply was likely overstated.

He argued there were serious problems with the way Mr Collins calculated the alleged undersupplying and overcharging.


Susan Porter with parents Graham and Christine at Yatala Pie Shop
Susan Porter with parents Graham and Christine at Yatala Pie Shop


Mr Ferrett submitted the court would need to accept Yatala Pie Shop's records for how many pies it baked and sold each day between January 2017 and October 2019 were accurate, and that the shop's 80 bakery staff didn't notice for more than two years that they were apparently using twice as much meat as required.

Mr Cornell, a father of four, agreed last month to not sell or mortgage his family home in Upper Mount Gravatt while the case was ongoing.

Yatala Pie Shop unsuccessfully applied to the court to freeze Mr Cornell's assets, alleging that Mr Cornell took steps to sell his butcher shop in Carina after Yatala's owner Graham and manager Susan Porter confronted him over the alleged deception.

Mr Ferrett submitted that Mr Cornell was only selling his shop because he was of retirement age.

Justice John Bond has ordered Yatala Pie Shop and Mr Cornell to try to resolve the case at mediation before February 28.

Mr Cornell must file his defence by February 10.