Seven people have been sentenced for their part in a major £1 million stolen goods conspiracy.
In 2017, Lancashire Police launched Operation Redmill, a covert investigation which targeted high-value thefts and the handling of stolen goods by Tommy Smith, Mary Smith, Scott Paton and their associates in Great Harwood and Rishton.
During the investigation, covert observations and enquiries linked the offenders to thefts of plant and machinery from across the country, including addresses in the Greater Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Carlisle areas.
As part of the operation police later searched industrial units connected to the offenders at St Lawrence Mill in Mill Street, Great Harwood.
A number of items found inside were later linked to other thefts.
Evidence was gathered which showed the gang had orchestrated thefts, sales and attempts to sell the stolen property. The offenders had also taken significant steps in their attempts to frustrate the recovery of these items by the police.
Stolen property included pallets of Debenhams stock valued at more than £186,000.
A number of the offenders, including Tommy and Mary Smith, Scott Paton, Steve Harwood, Kieron Savage and Leonard Perkins pleaded guilty, with Anthony Miller convicted following a trial in June.
All those involved were sentenced at Preston Crown Court on Wednesday (August 28).
Det Insp Vinnie De Curtis, of Lancashire Police, said: “In 2017 we became aware of a number of high-value thefts linked to Tommy Smith and his associates.
“Following enquiries we unearthed a widespread and deliberate conspiracy to steal machinery, vehicles and stock amounting to thousands of pounds.
“The audacity of those involved in stealing these items was staggering, with the goods often taken from within secure compounds before being sold on, or taken to auction.
“The criminal activity of these individuals, while initially low-key, became more and more brazen, with officers quickly gathering evidence which linked those involved.
“I would like to place on record my thanks to colleagues who have worked on this operation, as well as praise the support of officers from other forces who have helped our investigation.
“We welcome the sentences handed down at court which should serve as a warning to others.”
Tommy Smith, 42, formerly of Meadow Street, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and money laundering. He was sentenced to six and a half years in prison.
Mary Smith, 42, of Meadow Street, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and money laundering. She was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment.
Scott Paton, 31, of Springfield Road, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and money laundering. He was sentenced to 25 months in prison.
Steve Harwood, 51, of Lord Street, Rishton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Sentenced to 16 months, suspended for 18 months.
Kieron Savage, 28, of Garden Street, Great Harwood, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Sentenced to 16 months, suspended for 18 months.
Leonard Perkins, 28, of Bridgefield Close, Rishton, pleaded guilty to theft and conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Sentenced to eight weeks in prison.
Anthony Miller, 45, of Bostons, Great Harwood, was convicted after trial of conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Given an 18 month community order.
Some of the stolen property taken is listed here:
A Ford Transit van was stolen in Leeds. The driver door of the van was found in June 2018 during a search of St Lawrence Mill.
A fork lift truck valued at £4,000 and a Vauxhall Vivaro van were stolen in Bolton. In November 2017, Scott Paton took the fork lift truck to auctioneers in Goole, Yorkshire.
The truck was identified as stolen and seized. In an attempt to legitimise his possession of the vehicle, Paton provided a false invoice of purchase to the enquiry desk at Accrington Police Station.
Between April and May 2017
Two Hamm rollers, each valued at £16,000, were reported as stolen from addresses in Leeds and Darwen.
The rollers were tracked to Tommy Smith’s Commercials Ltd in Great Harwood. When police arrived, the identity markings of the rollers had been removed.
The rollers were later moved from the site, with one of the machines recovered from an address in Doncaster by South Yorkshire Police.
A burglary took place at a business property in Swinton, Manchester. A number of vehicles and tools valued at £38,000 were stolen.
A Ford Transit van was taken, with the vehicle registration plate later found at Tommy Smith’s premises in Great Harwood during a search in June 2018.
An Ammann road roller, valued at £13,250, was stolen from an address in Leeds, with a Bomag road roller, valued at £15,750, stolen from an address in Bradford 10 days later.
Both items, as well as a dumper, were entered into an auction in Cambridge under the account of ‘Hot Dog Tom’.
Police seized the items before sale.
Pallets of Debenhams stock valued at more than £186,000 were stolen from a HGV trailer on the A1 between Worksop and Wadworth.
Following a search of Tommy Smith’s premises in June 2018, officers recovered 18 Debenhams-labelled boxes containing clothing.