Car theft gang members jailed for total of 24 years

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Members of a gang who stole cars across the East Midlands, including vehicles from Corby and Northampton, before shipping some to Africa and using others to commit crime, have today (Friday, November 23) been sent to prison for a total of 24 years.

Eleven men, all of whom had pleaded guilty to being involved in the plot, were sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday and today.

Two others were sentenced in August at the end of unrelated proceedings and a 14th man was sentenced in October.

The prison sentences were the culmination of a lengthy investigation led by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit’s serious organised crime team.

The investigation, codenamed Operation Pacer, found that a total of 60 cars with a combined value of £1m were stolen over a 12-month period, from October 2010, most of them taken after their owners’ homes had been burgled and car keys stolen.

Most of the cars were high value models, particularly BMWs, Audis and Range Rovers.

A number of the stolen vehicles were taken to a container yard in Solihull, in the West Midlands, then to the Suffolk port of Felixstowe where they were shipped to Port Elizabeth in South Africa. A dozen cars were intercepted by the South African Police Service’s Vehicle Identification Section.

One car stolen from Calverton, in Nottinghamshire, was recovered in the country of Tanzania, 2,000 miles north of Port Elizabeth. Another six cars were found at Felixstowe. Other stolen cars were used in burglaries and robberies in the Midlands and South Yorkshire.

Six of the gang had pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to receive stolen goods at earlier hearings.

Serbian national Nikola Oblakovic, 23, of Woburn Close, Leicester, was jailed for three years and seven months.

Issa Ali, also known as Salum Marzouk, aged 38, and formerly of Station Street West, Coventry, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Ali, who was responsible for storing the stolen cars in containers at Bradnocks Marsh container yard in Solihull, was jailed for three years.

Paul McGinley, 29, formerly of Firbank Court, Chilwell, Nottinghamshire, owned the machine that made false plates. He had admitted the same charge as Oblakovic and was jailed for 14 months.

Mark Mansfield, 24, of Tuffleys Way, Thorpe Astley, Leicestershire received a prison sentence of two years.

Alan Mann, 25, of Harwill Crescent, Aspley, was given a six month sentence, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work.

Matatizo Mkamdawire, 28, formerly of William McKee Close, Coventry, had been sentenced in October to six months in prison for his part in loading the vehicles into the containers. He admitted a charge of possessing criminal property.

Six others, all from Nottinghamshire, pleaded guilty to stealing the cars, having each been charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.

They were Brendan Turley, 27, formerly of Coleby Road, Broxtowe, who was jailed for three years and nine months, Ashley Osbourne, 26, of Hartley Road, Nottingham, also jailed for three years and nine months, James Clarke, 22, formerly of Bells Lane, Aspley, jailed for three years, Aaron Wilson, 24, formerly of Squires Lane, Bulwell, jailed for two years, Matthew Johnson, 26, formerly of Mansfield Road, Blidworth, who was jailed for 21 months and Andrew Wheelhouse, 31, of Mansfield Road, Underwood, who was given a 12-month sentence suspended for 12 months.

Senior investigating officer, Supt Lecky Grewal, said: “These sentences are just reward for a meticulous investigation by officers from three different forces, working together to bring this criminal gang to justice and exemplifying what policing in collaboration can achieve. It is also testament to the courage of the victims and other members of the public to come forward and help bring the case to court.”