An organised crime group (OCG) who burgled 18 homes in Warrington have been jailed.
The seven men and three women were involved in 162 burglaries in total across Cheshire, Merseyside and Lancashire between January 2019 and February 2020.
In January 2020 an investigation was launched by Merseyside Police, detectives from Cheshire Constabulary’s proactive team in Warrington and Lancashire Police following a spike in high value cars with an estimated value of £2.6m being stolen and often recovered in Blackburn. When the evidence was gathered a number of warrants were executed in October 2020 across Merseyside and Lancashire which led to seven arrests being made and subsequent charges. The remaining three were later charged and the vast majority, faced with overwhelming evidence, pleaded guilty prior to trial. Over three days, from Tuesday 6 July 2021 some the group were sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court.
36-year-old Sireen Rafiq (also known as Shamilia Tabassum) of Seacole Close, Blackburn, Lancashire was sentenced to 21 months for transferring criminal property
20-year-old Lewis Tankard of Seel Road, Huyton was sentenced to five years and seven months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
19-year-old Neil O’Brien of Prestwood Crescent, Knotty Ash was sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
29-year-old Noah Hassan of no fixed abode was sentenced to four years and nine months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
29-year-old Stephen Hooten of Craigburn Road, Tuebrook was sentenced to five years and two months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles Additionally, 50-year-old Paula Heathers of The Green, Stoneycroft was sentenced to 14 months suspended for two years and 115 hours of unpaid work for possessing criminal property. Heathers and the six others all pleaded guilty. 20-year-old Susan Russell of Corner Brook, Stockbridge Village, was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years, 60 hours unpaid work and a curfew, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court. Three more men will be sentenced later this year.
Detective Sergeant Ian Bingley, from Cheshire Constabulary’s proactive team in Warrington said: “This was a painstaking and complex investigation involving all three forces working jointly to gather and collate evidence that would lead to identifying and capturing the organised crime group’s conspiracy. “They would commit the burglaries during the night, this was at times terrifying for the victims who were at home at the time. They ruthlessly forced their way into the property, searched for the keys to the owner’s high powered vehicles and then drove away with the cars. “The gang would identify what cars to target and their onward sale and were paid a wage for carrying out the crime. “To bring them to justice required dedication and tireless work by the proactive team, in particular DC Mike McDermott who led the Warrington investigations, and our neighbouring forces to put an end to their criminality and let them know that Cheshire will not be seen as an easy target for organised crime.” Detective Sergeant Darren Hankin of Operation Castle explains more: “It is very pleasing to see this OCG dismantled following an extensive operation, working closely with our colleagues at our neighbouring Cheshire and Lancashire forces.
“It soon became clear that this OCG were sophisticated, prolific and causing misery wherever they went.
“We understand that burglary often has a massive impact on victims. It can be a really personal and invasive crime and victims can struggle to come to terms with offenders having entered their homes and stolen personal items, which don’t always have huge monetary value, but on a personal level can be irreplaceable. "Many burglaries are still preventable as offenders are often opportunistic. Lock your front and back door even when you are in, set your burglar alarm when you go out or go to be and consider getting CCTV. "We continue to remind people over the summer that on hot days, although it might be tempting to leave windows and doors wide open to cool down, be careful not to leave yourself vulnerable by leaving your home in this way. “It’s also a good idea to use light timers when you go out at night or during the summer holiday period, keep valuables out of sight, and secure your shed and garage too. Look out for your neighbours, especially the elderly, and report anything suspicious to police.”