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Nine convicted for organized operation to steal high-value vehicles

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

The team created a comprehensive package of evidence showing the men’s involvement in keyless vehicle theft by scanning the signal from the owners’ keys and using an on-board diagnostic tool to start the vehicles.

In an 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, traveling for approximately 800 meters before coming off the wheel.

The crime was investigated by CID and the Wakefield District Crime Squad, who were able to link the robbery to a shop in the Armley area of ​​Leeds, which was until 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. Are:

• Mark Smith, 40, of Tong Way, Leeds, who was jailed for 12 years after being found guilty of one count of robbery and was jailed for a further three years for conspiracy to steal vehicles engine, 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 property and was sentenced to a total of seven-and-a-half years prison.

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

• 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 jailed for a total of two years and four months of prison.

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

• Peter Hoyle, 38, of Aberford Road, Woodlesford, who admitted one charge of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was jailed for 11 months.

• Edgar Uzulins, 34, of Baileys Crescent, Leeds, who admitted one charge of handling stolen property and was given a 20-month prison sentence 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 sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for two years.

• James Hemingway, 50, of Wood Drive, Rothwell, who was jailed for two months after admitting one count of perverting the course of justice.

Detective Chief Inspector Scott Hartley, head of precision for the Leeds district, said:

“This was an organized crime group that took advantage of other people’s misery, targeting high-value vehicles and commercial vans containing tools. This was a sophisticated enterprise worth around £1 million.

“In one incident, significant violence was used when the victim attempted to stop his vehicle being stolen, showing the willingness and distance to which this group would commit these thefts. His life was devastated socially, financially and physically by the actions of this OCG.

“The truth is that organized crime destroys lives, and as part of the Precision Program, we are committed to disrupting and dismantling those involved in organized crime.”

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

Upon their arrest, keys to two industrial facilities in Armley and Dewsbury were found, where disassembled parts of the Range Rover and Mercedes Sprinter vans were discovered. They were found to belong to vehicles that were stolen between September and November 2022.

The court was told that Oldroyd was the ringleader of the conspiracy, assisted throughout by Oliver. Together they identified vehicles with a certain profile and planned and arranged the thefts. They recruited others into their criminal enterprise to help commit 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 Stanley robbery, with Tester driving the vehicle seen in the 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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