A gang of four cigarette thieves who targeted delivery lorries for £70,000 worth of cargo have been jailed for a total of 10 years.
The four men were jailed at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday, January 15, in relation to a conspiracy involving 14 professional thefts.
North East Region Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) launched an investigation following two identical offences in the Northumbria Police area on October 8 and December 3, 2015.
They found criminals had followed the same delivery lorry from the depot on both occasions, to the area of Greentree Newsagents, Newcastle upon Tyne, where the lorry was to make its first delivery. Whilst the driver was away from the vehicle, entry was gained and cigarettes to the value of approximately £8,000 were stolen.
As part of Operation Scorpion Five, detectives linked this criminal group to 14 crimes of theft that occurred throughout the North of England between 1 June 2015 and 22 December 2015. These occurred in St Helens, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Carlisle, Gateshead, Manchester, Staffordshire and Cheshire.
Detectives eventually identified one of the criminals surveillance vehicles, and police action was taken against the group when this vehicle was caused to stop on the M62. During a subsequent search of the vehicle an assortment of items were recovered including bolt croppers, hooded snood’s, hats with ear phones inside them and a 2 way radio which was switched on, identifying that there were further members of the group that they were communicating with. Extensive analytical work was then conducted by the investigative team to identify the remaining members of the criminal gang.
Detective Constable Paddy O’Keefe from NERSOU led the investigation into the crime group and said he hoped the sentence would “reassure local businesses.”
He said: “The targeting of regional and national businesses with this type of crime has far reaching ramifications.
“Not only are they the victim of a theft which in many cases has already resulted in loss of thousands of pounds. It also brings about additional security processes which may have to be implemented in order to preserve reputational integrity and the consideration around the security of specific business premises.
“This in turn could directly impact upon the employment of staff and the investment in regions where companies are victim to this type of crime.
“Hopefully the sentences passed will reassure businesses in the North East that the Police will protect them as victims and also send a clear message to organised criminals looking to target the businesses here in our region that they will be pursued in their criminal enterprise and brought to justice for their actions.”
The gang were jailed at Newcastle Crown Court on Monday, January 15. They include:
- Robert Stewart, 56, of Prince William Street, Liverpool, was jailed for 2 years 4 months
- Brian Jago, 61, of Winkle Street, Liverpool, was jailed for 2 years 4 months
- James Henry Mangan, 62, of Ravenna Road, Liverpool, was jailed for 2 years 9 months
- Mark Anthony Delacruz, 37, of Upper Frederick Street, Liverpool, was jailed for 2 years 9 months