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Seven members of an organised crime gang who were involved in more than 50 keyless thefts of around £2.4 million worth of vehicles have been jailed for a total of more than 30 years.
An extensive investigation carried out by Leicestershire Police identified the group who were targeting high-value keyless entry vehicles including BMWs, Range Rovers and Mercedes AMGs which ranged in value from £20,000 to £130,000 each.
The defendants have been sentenced to a total of more than 30 years.
The offences were committed across a number of different force areas with the gang members carrying out different roles to target and steal the vehicles during the early hours of the morning, without using the owner’s key, before driving the vehicles away to be stripped down to parts.
The parts would then either be sold online or transported by lorry out of the UK via ferry port to Lithuania.
But on 18 February 2019, when Leicestershire Police officers were called to a report of three Range Rover vehicles being stolen in the Oakham area, an immediate response led to one of the defendants Juozas Paulauskas being arrested near to the scene.
This led to further enquiries and investigation including analysis of CCTV and digital devices which led to other members of the gang being identified. All were arrested and remanded into custody with a significant reduction in keyless thefts of vehicles then being noticed across the region.
In total it was found there were 57 vehicle thefts which police could prove that had been committed by members of the gang across 10 police force areas. However it is believed the scope of the offending stretched far beyond this.
The dedicated investigation within Leicestershire was supported by officers from across the region and saw 61 digital devices examined, including laptops, mobile phones and satellite navigation, as well as 409 exhibits.
This led to charges being made and today at Leicester Crown Court, four of the defendants were sentenced. Three of the defendants were sentenced previously in January this year.
Officer in the case, Detective Constable Lucy Chafer said: “This has been an extremely long and complex investigation to bring a gang who were involved in millions of pounds worth of vehicle theft to justice.
“The group had no consideration for their many victims as they targeted high value vehicles and worked in a sophisticated manner to try and avoid being caught. But the determination of the investigating team has ultimately led to them all finally having to face up to their actions in court. Organised crime offences remain a priority for us in force and we continue in our work to bring those involved to justice.
“We would advise owners of keyless entry vehicles to take steps to help prevent theft of your vehicle. This includes keeping your key inside a Faraday bag which blocks signals from reaching your key or alternatively keeping it in any metal container to block signal transmission.”