Seven people from Northamptonshire have been jailed after stealing £37,000 from 70 phone boxes in a sophisticated series of thefts across the country, including in Kettering.
Lee McQuade, 29, Connor Malone, 22, Davy Mains, 22, Gary Blyde, 54, Jamie Blyde, 30, Steven Malone, 43, and Kelsey McEwan, 18, all pleaded guilty to counts of theft, conspiracy to steal and converting criminal property between them and were sentenced on Friday, June 19, at Northampton Crown Court.
Police have said the gang planned their raids on the BT phone boxes carefully by using special tools and targeting pay phones that were likely to have large amounts of cash - even some in busy shopping areas.
They were arrested last year after a joint investigation by Northamptonshire Police and BT Threat Intelligence and Investigation Team that found the thefts had been committed between January 2013 and March 2014.
Some of the techniques they used included obstructing the view into the kiosk by either using posters or spray painting the inside of the glass and removing the interior light bulb.
Some of the members would be used to make test calls to the pay phones – a method to establish whether they were likely to be full of money or empty. They would then target the full kiosks and use a cordless hand drill to remove the money boxes.
CCTV images released show some of the gang walking across Kettering town centre with a set of posters under their arms, taken from another kiosk.
They then place these posters on other telephone boxes and then disappear into them for a few minutes, before leaving.
The thefts were carried out up and down the country including Gillingham, Hastings, Rugby, Coventry, Kent, Birmingham, Margate, Ramsgate, Broadstairs, Rochester, Daventry, Watford, Milton Keynes, Skegness, Rushden, Norwich, Dereham, Kingslynn, Luton, Dunstable, Uxbridge, Rickmansworth, Dover, Folkestone, Gravesend, Carlisle, Sittingbourne, Canterbury, Ramsgate, Carnforth, Kettering, Northampton, Wellingborough and Manchester.
Their charges and sentences include:
Lee McQuade, 29, of Entwood Drive, conspiracy to steal - sentenced to 16 months in prison
Connor Malone, 22, of Bailiff Street, conspiracy to steal and two counts of converting criminal property - sentenced to 14 months in prison
Davy Mains, 22, of Becketts View, conspiracy to steal - sentenced to six months in prison
Gary Blyde, 54, of Semilong Road, theft - sentenced to six months in prison
Jamie Blyde, 30, of Lark Rise, conspiracy to steal - sentenced to six months in prison
Steven Malone, 43, of Whitworth Road, theft - sentenced to six months in prison
Kelsey McEwan, 18, of Eastern Avenue North, conspiracy to steal - sentenced to a 12 month Youth Supervision Order
DC Emma Howe, from the Organised Crime and Drugs Team, said: “The investigation into this Organised Crime Group was challenging due to the amount of offending spanning the entire UK.
“Identifying the offenders and bringing them to the courts was a real team effort working closely with the CPS and BT. Through effective work by police analysts we were able to ensure that the group were identified and brought to justice.
“The costs to BT and the inconvenience they have caused to the public by breaking into countless telephone kiosk is huge and I am relieved that they have all been prosecuted.”
Kevin Brown from the BT Threat Intelligence and Investigation team said: “Today we’ve shown the importance of collaborative working in bringing this case to a successful conclusion. I’d like to praise the work of my team and that of Northamptonshire Police.”
Determining the seriousness of the ofences, Mrs Recorder Lucking QC, said: “Technology and circumstances have changed but they (telephone kiosks) still remain a vital point of contact to the emergency services.”