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Trio jailed for 99-car alloy wheel scam in Darlington
A CAREER criminal, whose prolific car crime spree left scores of elderly and disabled motorists stranded at home without transport, has been jailed.
Drug addict Gary Wayne Drummond stole alloy wheels from 99 cars over a two and-a-half year period in Darlington and within an eight mile radius of the town.
Drummond, who received four years at Teesside Crown Court, had pleaded guilty to theft, while co-accused Mohammed Irfan was jailed for 18 months following a conviction at trial for handling stolen goods.
Drummond's partner Angela Wolfe, who received a ten month prison term, suspended for two years, admitted acquiring criminal property in relation to thousands of pounds that were transferred to her bank account by Irfan, proceeds from the sale of the wheels.
Prosecutor Shaun Dodds said police began an investigation after becoming aware of a high level of alloy wheel thefts along with satellite navigation devices. The equipment was mainly stolen from Ford Focus vehicles - which were targeted by Drummond - with many belonging to disabled Motability drivers.
The thefts stretched from January 2010 until September last year when Drummond was arrested and placed on an electronic tag.
Drummond was already known to police having served several jail sentences for thefts of and from cars, dating back to 1981. His record also included an eight year spell in prison for a botched post office robbery.
The 46-year-old would break in through a side window, locate the locking wheel nuts and then steal the wheels, leaving the vehicle perched on bricks.
Mr Dodds said Wolfe opened up an eBay account in order to advertise the stolen wheels, which was how Irfan got in touch with the couple. A text message would be sent to Irfan to alert him to the thefts and arrangements were then made to transport the stolen goods to the 28-year-old, usually by courier.
He paid for the stolen wheels by transferring two amounts, just short of £20,000 in total, into various bank accounts, one of which belonged to Wolfe, which were then traced by police.
In all, 99 cars were broken into with the average insurance payout for each one £1,600 – meaning a bill for insurance companies nearing £160,000.
Dan Cordey, for Drummond, of Moffatt Close, Darlington, said he was deeply remorseful and now realised the effect his crimes had on his victims.
Sean Grainger, for Irfan, from Tipton, in the West Midlands, said he continued to deny any wrong-doing. He told police he thought the wheels were legitimately sourced from salvage yards.
David Lamb, representing 40-year-old Wolfe, also of Moffatt Close, said she had been manipulated by Drummond and had played a passive role by allowing her bank accounts to be used by him.
Sentencing the trio, Judge John Walford described Drummond as a “prolific and relentless offender”.
He said: “You are a career criminal...with a record as bad as you could sensibly get”.
Turning to Irfan, he said he had facilitated the thefts as he was always available to take the stolen items.
He said he had considered suspending a jail sentence on Irfan - who handled 67 sets of alloy wheels valued at £51,000 – after hearing that he had no previous convictions and was also the sole carer for his ill mother.
However he had to deter others from following his example.
Meanwhile, the judge said Wolfe – a mother of six - “richly deserved” to go prison for helping her partner to launder cash from the sale of the wheels.
He said he was just persuaded not to immediately jail her because of the problems it would cause in respect of her children's care.
The judge commended the investigating officer, DC Phil Collingwood, from Durham police, along with his colleague PC Zoe Mason, for the thoroughness in which they investigated the case.
After the hearing DC Collingwood said: “We are pleased with the outcome and that the public has been protected from any further offences.
“The majority of these crimes were committed against Motability cars and they have had a major impact both upon the victims who are vulnerable members of the community and upon residents raising their fear of crime.
“Many victims were left stranded and were unable to use their car and leave their homes to go out.
“We believe we have got most of Gary Wayne Drummond's offending, but there will be plainly many other offences which we don't know about or haven't managed to link to him.”
While proceeds of crime legislation will be used against Irfan to recover his ill gotten gains, the court was told that Drummond and Wolfe had “frittered away” the money they had received and had nothing left.
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