A gang of criminals involved in a stolen car racket worth £500,000 have been jailed after police used their own CCTV equipment to bring them to justice.
Thieves used hi-tech equipment to steal high-value Jaguar Land Rovers, all using the keyless fob ignition system, from across London and the South East of England.
The cars, including Defenders, Discovery Sports and Evoques, were then driven to a secluded business park in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire where they were either broken down for parts or sold on intact.
Police said the gang had over an eight-month period processed 18 vehicles worth £500,000.
Four members of the gang were jailed for a total of more than 14 years at Bristol Crown Court following an 18-month investigation by Gloucestershire Police.
They were: Edward Barrington, 28, Barrington’s father Michael Fear, 58, and associates Luke Heron, 25, and Kelvin Harding, 29.
Barrington also “exploited” his mechanic Stephen Goode, 45, to join the conspiracy.
Barrington ran Everything Land Rover breakers’ yard at the New Dunn business park in Sling legitimately trading in scrap and insurance write-off Land Rovers and in April 2017 he leased a second breakers’ yard at nearby Parkend.
Breaking up high-value cars can be more profitable than selling cars whole and Barrington would dismantle stolen cars that were often still under manufacturer’s warranty or had less than 8,000 miles on the clock, with the parts sent overseas or sold on the internet or in the motor trade press.
In April 2017 a motorhome was stolen from an address in Surrey and in June a GPS tracker on the vehicle was activated and led the owner to Barrington’s yard.
He was arrested on suspicion of handling stolen goods.
Detectives began an investigation and seized a months’ worth of CCTV recordings from the premises, which showed top of the range cars, as many as four a day, being delivered and then being broken down.
Eleven intact stolen vehicles were recovered at the two sites and all were on cloned number plates.
A wider police inquiry revealed that another 26 high-value cars had been dismantled at Barrington’s two yards between November 2016 and June 2017, which had all been stolen from Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Surrey and the south west of London.
Police said in total 37 vehicles worth £820,000 had passed through Barrington’s two yards.
All the cars used a fob instead of needing to insert a key into the ignition, which allowed thieves to use high-tech equipment to either clone the fobs or hack into the car’s electronics.
The police investigation revealed that the stolen cars being delivered from London were always driven by Heron with associate Harding following in another vehicle to take him home.
Heron, who ran a vehicle recovery business called Mr Recovery, left his fingerprints on some of the cloned number plates.
When he was arrested police searched his home in Bromley and found an device electronic device called The Legend which can be bought on the internet for £500 and allows the thief to capture the key fob code if it is nearby.
They also discovered an on-board diagnostic system (OBD) which enables the user to connect to a car’s electronics and start the ignition or clone another key.
When Harding was arrested police recovered a turbo decoder key, which can be used by locksmiths legally.
Goode was arrested after CCTV showed him working on the stolen vehicles.
Fear was arrested at his home where police recovered two stolen vehicles, a Vauxhall Vivaro van and a Land Rover Discovery.
Barrington, of Wellington Terrace, Newnham-on-Severn, Gloucestershire pleaded guilty during his trial to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and was jailed for four years.
Harding, of Euston Road, Croydon, Surrey and Heron, of Kingston Road, Epsom, Surrey were found guilty after a trial of conspiracy to handle stolen goods and were each jailed for four years.
Fear, of King Street, Cwm, Ebbw Vale, South Wales pleaded guilty to two charges of handling stolen goods and was sentenced to two years and four months’ imprisonment.
Goode, of Gloucester Road, Coleford, Gloucestershire pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and received a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Two other men were acquitted by the jury.
Passing sentence, Judge Mark Horton said: “This was not a conspiracy where specific vehicles were stolen to order.
“This was a conspiracy where those vehicles were stolen and Heron and Harding knew vehicles could be delivered to Mr Barrington’s yards.
“The main problem was that Mr Barrington was having difficulty the large number of cars that not only Mr Heron and Mr Harding were delivering but also others.
“It is quite plain from the overwhelming evidence this was a professional and sophisticated operation.
“It is clear some the vehicles had been stolen and delivered to the site very soon after they had been stolen.
“Mr Goode has least culpability and was exploited by Mr Barrington and was not involved in the detail of the planning of the offences.”
Barrington faces a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing later in the year.
Following the hearing, Detective Constable Karen Wildin said: “This is part of a much larger enterprise that was running out of the London area and we’ve managed to convict and put inside two members from the enterprise in London.
“They were the two that were responsible for bringing the stolen vehicles to the Forest of Dean.
“Without them Edward Barrington wouldn’t have been able to do what he was doing in both the Sling and Parkend site and a member of his staff wouldn’t have been convicted through being part of that enterprise by dismantling the vehicles.”