CONSPIRATORS who stole thousands of pounds-worth of goods and trucks from two Widnes haulage firms have been jailed following investigations by West Mercia and Cheshire police.
A judge at Worcester Crown Court sentenced Mark Parkes, Andrew Parkes, Jason Crestbury and Jugjit Sunar, of the West Midlands and Tony Webley, of Worcestershire, to jail terms totalling 20 years after they pleaded guilty to charges relating to their various roles in a nationwide conspiracy involving the theft of 13 HGVs and their loads, with an estimated value of more than £360,000.
The offences included an incident which took place overnight on February 8 last year at Sprake Transport, based at Harrison Street, Widnes, in which a cab and a trailer worth £13,000 and a load of clothes of indeterminate value were stolen.
Another incident involved the theft of two HGV units and trailers worth a combined £57,000 and containing 48 tonnes of copper tubing worth a further £45,000 from Vic Davies Transport, of Ditton Road, Widnes.
Nine of the 13 thefts were carried out in Cheshire against other businesses based at Middlewich, Winsford and Sandbach.
The Cheshire Constabulary major crime unit played a key role in the investigation, dubbed 'Operation Bounce', with the majority of victims and witnesses coming from the county. Cheshire police officers were also involved in arresting and interviewing the culprits.
Detective Chief Inspector Amanda Burchell, of West Mercia police, said: 'The value of goods stolen by this gang was proven to be more than £360,000 from the 13 offences for which they have been convicted. But we believe they may have been responsible for the theft of more than a 100 vehicles and loads valued in excess of £1m.
'These thefts caused immense disruption to many businesses throughout the country and caused at least one haulage company to cease trading, putting people out of work.
'I am delighted that we have been able to put those responsible before the courts for the crimes they have committed.'
Tony Allen, of the Road Haulage Association, said: 'The haulage industry is very grateful to West Mercia Constabulary for making such an impact on lorry crime through Operation Bounce.
'The dedication and commitment of officers from the force crime squad has been appreciated by my association and the people it represents.'