Published: 00:01, 16 March 2016
A gang of 'brazen' thieves, who targeted victims throughout east Kent, have been jailed.
Judge James O’Mahony told the four – who were caught in a police sting - they had been involved in a “campaign of dishonesty”.
Canterbury Crown Court heard heard how officers had identified 24 victims in Ramsgate, Westgate, Margate, Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable – who had property worth “tens of thousands of pounds” stolen - including laptops, iPods, SatNavs, watches, cameras, phones and tools.
In the nine months the gang sold more than 100 items mostly from cars but also Motability scooter which had been taken during a burglary.
But the thieves didn’t realise that the workers at a Thanet shop where the items were sold were undercover police officers.
The judge sent the ring leader Adam Chandler, 26, of Stirling Way, Ramsgate to jail for 28 months.
His pals Jamie Thompson, 22, of Sea Street, Herne Bay and Wayne Kinlan, 23, of York Street, Ramsgate received 27 month sentences.
The fourth member Jade Norton – who had not taken part in the mass thieving campaign – but had stored the stolen items at her home – received an 18 month sentence suspended for two years.
"They were pretty brazen about the way they talked about their activities. This was planned organised crime a campaign of dishonesty over nine to 10 months" - Prosecutor Alastair Walker
All four had admitted one charge of conspiracy to steal.
The judge told them: “This was organised, persistent and serious crime. It was a campaign of dishonesty.”
He said the fake shop set up by police under the codename 'Operation Panther' had initially targeted London drug dealers setting up networks in Thanet.
He added: “Police weren’t particularly expecting this type of crime to be detected by this operation."
The court heard how the group were “brazen” about their thieving when they went into the shop to sell the stolen items – revealing a pride in what they were doing, even though it meant their victims lost priceless photographs, records and diaries.
Prosecutor Alastair Walker said what the gang had done was “prolific” during the nine months – many of the stolen items were taken to the home of Norton, who was Chandler’s girlfriend.
“There were organised in that they went out every night and targeted cars in the East Kent area to see if the doors had been left unlocked.
“They would work together as a team, take the stolen items to the shop and split the proceeds. Norton allowed the items to be stored at her home and she knew what was going on, even going to the shop sometimes with her boyfriend.
“There were 30 sales involving well over 100 items, mainly iPods, SatNavs and telephones – with an estimated total value of tens of thousands of pounds," he added.
He added: “They were pretty brazen about the way they talked about their activities. This was planned organised crime a campaign of dishonesty over nine to 10 months.”
Defence barrister Alexia Zimbler said Chandler became involved because of his addiction to gambling which got “worse and worse.”
She added: “When somebody suggested to him that people were in the habit of leaving their cars unlocked, he thought it was rather silly and didn’t believe him initially.
“Then one night he was shown it was true and this gave him an access to funds. He had been gambling on fruit machines and he thought it was going to change his life and that he would win big.
“He saw this second-hand place as the perfect shop where they would buy for cash.”
Defence barrister Dominic Webber said Thompson also gambled – going from fruit machines to casinos.