Chop shop gang to be sentenced after Land Rover and vehicle thefts

Derby Crown Court.
Derby Crown Court.

A gang of 11 men who were involved in the theft of Land Rovers, Ford Transit vans and vehicle parts worth tens of thousands of pounds have been brought to justice.

Derby Crown Court heard today, Thursday, February 16, how ten of the men pleaded guilty to a variety of offences relating to their involvement in an operation which was based at a unit on Deepdale Close, at Staveley, and one was convicted after a trial.

The offenders included Gavin Critchley, 32, Bradley Ellis, 27, Simon Evans, 31, Peter Houghton, 32, Darren Keeton, 29, Karl Ray, 29, Andrew Roberts, 41, Ben Stubbs, 26, Aaron Wood, 27 and Gareth Houlden, 37, all from the Sheffield area, and Nathan Williams, 34, from Mansfield.

Prosecuting barrister Jonathan Dunne said: “This case involved a unit at Staveley operated by Bradley Ellis and Gavin Critchley. A unit which was a grave yard for stolen Transit vans and Land Rovers.

“This involved an enormous amount of police work from humble beginnings with the opportunist theft of a car from a driveway on March 24, 2014.”

Police revealed they originally spotted the stolen Fiesta on cameras and after it had been given new number plates it was tracked to Unstone service station where it was involved in the theft of a Land Rover.

The stolen Fiesta, according to Mr Dunne, was also linked to the theft of Land Rover headlights from Chesterfield and the theft of a spare wheel taken from a van.

Mr Dunne added police subsequently recovered a number of stolen Land Rovers and linked these to the unit at Staveley which they believed was operating as a chop shop.

Police launched an investigation with surveillance cameras and described activities at the unit as “pure criminality”.

The gang had been involved in a series of thefts of Land Rovers, Transit vans and vehicle parts from March, 2014, but was brought to justice after a search warrant was executed at the Staveley unit in September, 2014.

Offences had included many thefts of Land Rovers, Ford Transit vans, Land Rover headlights and parts, according to Mr Dunne, from locations across the region including Staveley, Chesterfield, Dronfield Woodhouse, Sheffield, Lincoln, Worksop, Newark, and Rotherham.

Following the thefts of vehicles many of their stolen parts were later found in other vehicles or at the unit in Staveley.

Evans, of Richmond Road, Sheffield, Ellis, of Haigh Moor Way, Swallownest, Sheffield, Critchley, of Thorpe Drive, Waterthorpe, Sheffield, Roberts, of Winn Drive, Sheffield, Keeton, of Danewood Gardens, Sheffield, Houghton, of Fellbrigg Road, Sheffield, Wood, of Berners Road, Sheffield, and Houlden, of Danewood Gardens, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal from between March, 2014, to October, 2014. Williams, of Sanderling Way, Forest Town, Mansfield, was found guilty of the same count after a trial.

Ray, of Thornborough Road, Sheffield, pleaded guilty to a theft from August, 2014.

Stubbs, of Euston Way, Dinnington, near Sheffield, pleaded guilty to converting criminal property including vehicles and vehicle parts via eBay and PayPal accounts used by Critchley.

Counsel for each of the defendants outlined the following mitigation.

Evans accepted having a leading role and admitted responsibility in the theft of ten vehicles and the theft of parts from a Transit van.

Ellis admitted being linked to the dismantling of vehicles but did not accept involvement in any thefts.

Critchley admitted involvement in 11 specific offences but he has no previous convictions.

Roberts was involved for only a couple of days assisting in two thefts.

Keeton conceded he was involved in three vehicle thefts and two thefts from vehicles but claimed to have only been involved for a month.

Houghton was linked to five vehicle offences but he was described as a “foot soldier”.

Wood claimed had only acted in a driving capacity.

Houlden was only linked to the theft of a Land Rover, theft from a Land Rover and interfering with a vehicle.

Williams’ involvement had only been to provide information about the remote location of a vehicle to be stolen and that the owner of the vehicle was on holiday.

Ray said he was involved in only one theft.

The extent of Stubbs’ involvement was that he had eBayy and Pay Payl accounts which he had allowed Critchley to use as part of the gang’s operation.

Judge Jonathan Bennett adjourned the case until tomorrow, Friday, February 17, for sentencing.