Three Lancashire men with 'relentless drive to steal' jailed after high-value vehicle theft investigation
Three men have been jailed for their parts in a criminal conspiracy involving the theft of vehicles from across the country.
Matthew Clegg, Lewis Hester and Timothy Bolchover were sentenced at Preston Crown Court last week (Thursday, January 16 and Friday, January 17) as part of Operation Kuwait, an investigation into high-value thefts including vehicles, vehicle parts and plant machinery.
A fourth man, Zack Sanderson, was given a community order.
DC David Williams, of Lancashire Police, said: “In 2016 we became aware of a number of high-value thefts linked to Bolchover, Clegg, Hester and to a lesser degree, Sanderson.
“Following enquiries we unearthed a widespread and deliberate conspiracy to steal machinery, vehicles and stock amounting to thousands of pounds.
“The group’s audacity was staggering, with the goods often taken from within secure compounds before being sold on.
“The group showed a relentless drive to steal, with those involved linked to thefts across the country, including as far as Derbyshire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester and Scotland.
“We welcome their imprisonment and hope it serves as a warning to other wanting to commit such crimes.”
Clegg, 34, of Beech Close, Rishton, Hester, 25, of Lyndhurst Avenue, Blackburn and Bolchover, 33, of Lion Street, Church, were arrested and charged.
All pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft and conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
Clegg was jailed for three years and six months, Bolchover was handed a three year and 10-month sentence, and Hester was jailed for 27 months.
Sanderson, 20, of Simpson Street, Hapton, was arrested and charged after pleading guilty to handling stolen goods.
Sanderson was given a 12-month community order.
Between 2016 and 2018, officers conducted covert enquiries to pursue the group, suspected of a series of major thefts, including:
• In March 2018, Hester was seen driving Sanderson to Oswaldtwistle.
Sanderson was seen entering and driving away in a stolen Fiat Abarth.
• In November 26, 2017, Bolchover and Clegg travelled north on the M6 from Lancashire.
Overnight three types of plant machinery were stolen from the Cumbria area.
Telephony showed Bolchover and Clegg were linked to these thefts before travelling to Durham.
Four days later, on November 30, the plant machinery was found by Durham Constabulary at Witch Hill Quarry.
A low loader, stolen from Castle Douglas, Scotland, earlier in the year, was also recovered, with a Renault tractor unit, forensically linked to Bolchover and Clegg, also located.
• In December 2017 two motorhomes were stolen from Radcliffe, Greater Manchester, with telephone enquiries linking Bolchover, Clegg and Lewis Hester.
Two days later, one of the motorhomes was recovered from Hester’s yard at PCR Recycling, Ordnance Street.
• Three vehicles, a Ford Focus, a Mini Cooper and a BMW, were stolen from an address in Alan Ramsbottom Way, Great Harwood, in June 2018.
A day later, Timothy Bolchover was seen driving the vehicle into a unit at Lawrence Mill, Great Harwood.
Three days later, officers executed a warrant at the address with the BMW recovered.
The same day Bolchover was seen driving the stolen Mini in the area.
Five vehicles, including a white Mercedes C180, a black Audi S3, a grey Mercedes SLK, a white Range Rover Sport and a grey Audi S3, valued at more than £155,000, were recovered.
Four of the vehicles were linked to thefts from the Greater Manchester area, with another from Leyland.