Nine sentenced for organised high-value vehicle theft operation

Nine people, including three from South Leeds, have been sentenced following an investigation into the theft of £1 million worth of high-value vehicles and tools in Leeds, Wakefield and Kirklees.

The group were brought to justice by Operation Digford, an investigation led by officers from Leeds District Intelligence Unit, which uncovered three ‘chop shops’ in Leeds and Dewsbury where the vehicles were being dismantled for the lucrative trade in vehicle parts.

The team built up a comprehensive package of evidence which showed the men’s involvement in stealing the keyless vehicles by scanning the signal from the owners’ key fobs and using an on-board diagnostics tool to start the vehicles.

In one incident on Lime Pit Lane in the Stanley area of Wakefield in August 2022, a man was left with life-changing injuries after confronting one of the group who was stealing his van. Mark Smith drove over the victim who became trapped under the front wheel of the van, travelling for approximately 800 metres before coming free of the wheel.

The offence was investigated by Wakefield District CID and District Crime Team who were able to link the robbery to a chop shop in the Armley area of Leeds which was by then being investigated as part of the wider Operation Digford investigation.

All nine were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Thursday and Friday last week. They are:

• Mark Smith, 40, of Tong Way, Leeds, who was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after being found guilty of one count of robbery and sentenced to a further three years imprisonment for conspiracy to steal motor vehicles, bringing his total to 15 years.

• Andrew Oldroyd, 49, of Wood Lane, Rothwell, who admitted two counts of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and one count of handling stolen goods and was sentenced to a total of seven and a half years imprisonment.

• Sam Oliver, 34, of Fifth Avenue, Rothwell, who admitted two counts of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was sentenced to a total of six years and three months imprisonment.

• Adrian Stewart, 35, of Meynell Approach, Holbeck, who admitted one count of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and one count of handling stolen goods and was sentenced to a total of two years and four months imprisonment.

• Jason Tester, 51, of Cottingley Road, Leeds, who was found guilty one count of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.

• Peter Hoyle, 38, of Aberford Road, Woodlesford, who admitted one count of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was sentenced to 11 months imprisonment.

• Edgar Uzulins, 34, of Baileys Crescent, Leeds, who admitted one count of handling stolen goods and was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

• Julie Hainsworth, 48, of Stratford Avenue, Beeston, who was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years.

• James Hemingway, 50, of Wood Drive, Rothwell, who was sentenced to two months imprisonment after admitted one count of perverting the course of justice.

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Hartley, Precision Lead for Leeds District, said:

“This was an organised crime group who profited from other people’s misery by targeting high value vehicles and trade vans containing tools. This was a sophisticated enterprise worth an estimated £1 million.

“In one incident, significant violence was used when the victim has made attempts to stop their vehicle being stolen, showing the willingness and lengths this group would go to carry out these thefts. His life has been devastated socially, financially, and physically by the actions of this OCG.

“The fact is that organised crime ruins lives and under Programme Precision we are committed to disrupting and dismantling those involved in organised criminality.”

Operation Digford began in November 2022 following the theft of a Range Rover vehicle from a car park in the Hunslet area of Leeds. The stolen vehicle was traced to another car park in Rothwell with police stopping the occupants of a second Range Rover seen driving out of the car park at speed. Inside the vehicle were Oldroyd, Oliver and Hoyle who were all arrested.

On their arrest, keys were found to two industrial units in Armley and Dewsbury where disassembled parts of Range Rovers and Mercedes Sprinter vans were discovered. They were found to belong to vehicles which had been stolen between September and November 2022.

The court were told that Oldroyd was head of the conspiracy, assisted throughout by Oliver. Together they identified vehicles of a particular profile and planned and arranged the thefts. They recruited others to their criminal enterprise to help carry out the actual thefts, such as Hoyle, Stewart and Smith, with Uzulins being recruited to help dismantle the vehicles.

Tester and Hainsworth were linked to the robbery in Stanley, with Tester driving the vehicle seen in convoy with the stolen van. Hemingway was found to have removed an on-board diagnostic tool from a vehicle that was recovered by police.

 

This post is based on a press release issued by West Yorkshire Police

 

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