Published: 12:05, 03 February 2012
by Paul Hooper
Two men who plotted a £125,000 heist at a New Romney bank have been jailed for two years.
A third member of the gang received a 12-month jail term for the thwarted raid on a cash machine at the Nationwide Bank, in High Street.
The plot was foiled thanks to an anonymous tip-off, which claimed a "possible" bank robbery was being planned in February last year.
Bridget Todd, prosecuting, told Canterbury Crown Court that officers were informed: "The information stated that between 9pm and 11pm a Michael Ward and a person called Stephen were going to rob a security guard who would be delivering money to the Nationwide bank.
"It was also stated they would be in a grey Audi on a 55 plate, parked at the end of the alleyway at the side of the bank."
Michael Ward, 29, Colin Martin, 45, and Paul Korpiela, 31, all from south London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal money from the bank.
A more serious charge of conspiracy to rob, which they all denied, was left on the file.
The prosecutor said police, who knew Ward, took the tip-off seriously, made checks and discovered a delivery of cash was due that night between 9pm and 11pm.
The bank cancelled the cash run and undercover police then kept watch on the area - and saw the Audi arrive next to the bank with three people inside.
The car, which had been stolen in London in January and was being driven with false number plates, then turned into Hayward's Close and minutes later Martin walked away.
Police later checked and found the car abandoned - but inside they discovered a note hidden underneath a balaclava.
It read: "Side alley. Rear car park. No outside cameras. Wood door. Two guys. One with glasses, small. Other, stocky type. Brings in boxes. Five runs. 125,000K. Nighttime. 9-11pm. One van. No support. Radios. No police."
Ms Todd said: "The Crown say this was information about a previous Group 4 delivery. It was designed to assist the defendants. It was clear that some preparation had been taken about the comings and goings and someone had been observing the guards."
"it was clear that some preparation had been taken about the comings and goings and someone had been observing the guards…” – bridget todd, prosectuing
Police using sniffer dogs then made a search of the area and discovered two masks, a white paper suit, three balaclavas a CS gas canister, a power disc cutter and a sledgehammer.
The prosecutor said the gang "having abandoned their plan had to get out of the area".
Ward, with Korpiela, was then spotted at the Ship Inn in New Romney High Street asking for bus times before asking for a taxi to take them to the Prince of Wales Pub in Hythe where they were spoken to by the police.
The men claimed they had come down from London to meet a girl they had spoken to on Facebook - but as they were being questioned, Martin walked into the pub.
The three would later claim through their barristers they had planned to steal money from the cash machine.
Ward, a freelance coach at Millwall Football Club, and Martin were both jailed for two years. Korpiela, who claimed he joined the gang thinking he was moving a stolen car, was jailed for 12 months.
Judge Richard Polden told Ward: "I accept what was said on your behalf was the reason the angle grinder and the sledgehammer were there was to steal money from the cash machine rather than be involved in a robbery.
"I also accept that you were involved in some financial difficulty at the time, having previously received a crisis loan from an earlier release from prison. You also had to borrow some money, which you then had to pay back at an extortionate rate of interest while you were applying for benefits.
"There is also no evidence that you were leading an extravagant lifestyle. It is also to your credit that you did some football coaching on a voluntary basis."