Four men and a woman have been sentenced for their part in the car cloning scam which emulated the 2000 Nicolas Cage movie in which a gang of car thieves target luxury cars for a living.
The Birmingham group specifically targeted the owners of high-powered vehicles, stealing their ‘dream’ cars and selling them on to unsuspecting customers.
The gang was so organised in the execution of their plan that officers investigating the thefts even found a ‘to do’ list detailing the roles each would play in the elaborate con.
Amjad Waseem, 29 , Dean Bott, 44, Paula Donnelly, 31, Abdul Nasir Khan, 25, Asmat Masood, 31, were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court last Friday having earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Nabeel Farid, 31 and Heather Downing, 30, both pleaded guilty to the same charges and are due to be sentenced later this month.
All faced charges of conspiracy to steal in connection with the theft of 39 cars
The vehicles -which were all top-performance cars from across the UK – were cloned using the details of similar cars taken from eBay, Piston Heads and Auto Trader websites.
Each was given a false registration and sold on to unsuspecting buyers through the same sites.
In total, the gang stole six Range Rover Sport, five Mercedes, seven BMWs, eight Audis, a Porsche 911 Carerra, two Honda Civics, and a Lexus.
The group of seven also took eight Volkswagens, and a Peugeot 207.
Ownership documents were faked, 150 false identities created and numerous false bank accounts opened by the gang in an effort to cover their tracks.
Highly organised, the members also made unsuspecting buyers call them on pre-paid mobile phones believing that they could not be traced should their scheme be uncovered.
The convictions follow a complex investigation launched in 2010 when Waseem, the group’s ringleader, was put under a covert police surveillance operation after being arrested near to where a stolen car was found.
This was the third occasion he had been spotted in similar circumstances, rousing the suspicions of detectives.
Officers ‘worked around the clock’ to monitor his every move, identifying his accomplices and slowly piecing together a series of audacious crimes dating back to January 2009 when the first car, a BMW 525D M Sport, was stolen.
Thieves took the car from the driveway of a house in Great Barr after burglars broke-in and took the keys while the family slept.
Three months later, the BMW was recovered with a different registration number from an address in Hatfield, Herefordshire.
The person who bought the car in good faith had paid £12,500 to a man in Erdington, Birmingham, unaware that it had been stolen in a pre-planned and carefully calculated crime.
Detectives also found that the car’s vehicle identification number (VIN) – a series of unique security markings all cars have – had also been tampered with to put police and the buyer off the trail.
As part of their inquiries, police sent the vehicle’s log book for an enhanced forensic examination which revealed Masood’s fingerprints on the documents.
The net quickly closed and police swooped on the seven one-by-one as the evidence was unearthed.
Each offence always followed the same pattern, co-ordinated and overseen by Waseem.
This was later explained when officers recovered a ‘to-do’ list from members of the gang which carefully set out each stage of the scam with each member playing a different role on each occasion.
The addresses used on forged documentation and as the location for viewings included those of Donnelly and Downing in south Birmingham.
In total 39 cars valued between £15,000 and £40,000 – totalling £780,000 – were stolen. Twenty-four of the vehicles were recovered by police having been cloned and sold on.
The remaining 15 were found in various stages of the complex cloning process ranging from newly stolen to ‘ready to sell’.
The seven admitted being directly linked to £1.25 million worth of stolen cars, though some have not been recovered.
Waseem, of Erdington, was sentenced to 54 months, Bott, of Kingstanding, received 24 months, Donnelly, from Selly Oak, was handed a six-month sentence suspended for two years and 200 hours unpaid work.
Khan, of Erdington, was handed 27 months and Masood, of Alum Rock, was given 36 months.
Downing, from Northfield, and Farid, from Erdington, are awaiting sentence.
Inspector Dave Keen, from West Midlands Police, said: ‘This was a carefully planned and audacious serious of crimes targeting hard working individuals from across the country who had saved for a long time to buy the car of their dreams, as well as those who were looking to own the car of their dreams.
‘Those dreams were shattered by this gang who conspired to steal these high performance cars and sell them on for their own criminal gain.
‘All of those involved have now been brought to justice thanks to the dedication of West Midlands Police officers and the wider criminal justice system.
‘The case also serves as a stark reminder of the dangers of buying second hand cars through private sellers without prior research and without conducting full checks through a variety of official websites.’
The five were sentenced on Friday 10 August with two to be sentenced later this month.
All seven are subject of ongoing Proceeds of Crime Act investigations with officers looking to seize any assets obtained through criminal activities.
All of the cars were returned to their rightful owners or their insurers.
Source: Mail Online