It was a tiny hidden security tracker in a stolen Mercedes that brought the activities of Waqas Rehman and his associates to an abrupt end.
When the device was activated on Skeffington Road in Ribbleton back in September 2017, it attracted the attention of Lancashire Police.
Officers were led by the tracker to a legitimate looking garage, where various work units were in place, but that “clearly had the appearance of a chop shop”.
They found defendant Mohammed Khan, 46, of Farringdon Close, Preston inside the unit.
Five vehicles at the scene were identified as stolen from burglaries in the area over a seven-week period – all of which involved sneaking in and the taking of car keys.
A search of the garage also revealed a van – stolen from Cumbria – which was partly dismantled.
There were also car parts linked to other stolen vehicles that had already been dismantled and disposed of.
Following Khan’s arrest, officers also arrested Waqas Rehman, 36, of Holmfield Road, Fulwood, Preston, who had rented the unit in his own name.
His mobile phone was seized from him and enquiries linked James Batchelor, 24, Hawthorn Road, Preston, a close associate of Khan’s.
Det Con Warren Gibson, who was involved in the investigation, said: “Burglary is the worst kind of crime and when victims have a car stolen after an intruder steals car keys it creates problems for them across their lives.
“This was an organised group of offenders using the pretence of a business to hide their activity in conspiring to receive stolen cars, dismantle them and sell the proceeds by whatever means they had at their disposal.
“This investigation has shown that there are criminals like Waqas Rehman, James Batchelor and Mohammed Khan who will prey on the fact that stolen vehicles offer an enterprise for them and an outlet for their criminal gains.
“It is clear there are others who are involved but who remain unidentified at this time.”
All three men were convicted of conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles after a trial.
When the men were convicted at Sessions
House Court earlier this year, Batchelor and Khan were still wanted, having been put on trial in their absence.
Batchelor was found guilty by an 11-1 majority jury, while Khan, 46, of Farringdon Close, Preston, was found guilty by a unanimous jury.
Rehman, 36, of Holmfield Road, Fulwood, Preston, was present for the proceedings and was also found unanimously guilty.
On Monday Rehman and Khan were both jailed for five years, while Batchelor was jailed for four years.
Det Con Gibson added: “Batchelor and Khan showed their lack of disrespect to the victims, to the court and to themselves by either not turning up or walking out of court part way through the trial.
“Rehman has shown he was prepared to avoid sentence at all costs by altering sick notes to try and avoid justice, but ultimately his behaviour caught up with him.
“These sentences reflect the gravity of the offences committed by this group of offenders.
“We are pleased that initial police work allowed us the opportunity to recover a significant amount of stolen vehicles and parts of others that had already been disposed of.”
Parts from high-priced models from premium brands, such as Audi, BMW, Land Rover and Mercedes, have strong resale values on foreign markets.
Three men who conspired to handle high-value cars stolen during house burglaries across Preston and South Ribble have been jailed. It is believed the trio planned to sell the proceeds on the black market, where expensive performance cars are broken up and component parts sold on at high prices to unwitting consumers
Waqas Rehman, Mohammed Khan and Jason Batchelor and photographs taken at their garage