England

Police swoop on £400k ram-raid spree gang's assets

A sports car, digger and pick-up truck Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption A sports car, digger and pick-up truck were among the items seized in the police swoop

Thousands of pounds' worth of cars and machinery have been seized by police from a ram-raid gang that used JCB diggers to rip out cash machines.

Five men were jailed in March for the £400,000 spree of raids and burglaries across the east of England.

About 140 officers from Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and two other units swooped on properties linked to the men on Wednesday.

It is thought the gang bought the goods with money from the robberies.

Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption Joseph Upton, John Leonard Smith, Albert Smith and Alfred Stanley all admitted two counts of conspiracy to burgle

Police seized an Audi A5, a pick-up truck, a caravan, quad bikes and heavy machinery including diggers from properties in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, Potton in Bedfordshire and Upwell in Norfolk.

Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption John Christopher Smith admitted one count of conspiracy to burgle

Cannabis factories, with a combined street value between £18,000 and £54,000, were also discovered at the Potton and Upwell properties.

Police said the properties were connected to Joseph Upton, John Smith and Albert Smith.

Along with John Christopher Smith and Alfred Stanley, they were sentenced to 22 years for carrying out ram-raids at 12 banks in 2012 across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

They stole more than £300,000 from cash machines and cars and jewellery more than £100,000 during burglaries.

Damage caused in the ram-raids was estimated at costing about £250,000 to repair.

The courts will eventually decide what goods the gang accumulated from their wrong-doing and if they should be confiscated.

Image caption Thousands of pounds' worth of repairs were needed after the raids, including this one at Fulbourn in Cambridgeshire
Image copyright Bedfordshire Police
Image caption A gaping hole was left in HSBC in Reepham, Norfolk, during a raid in which £90,000 was stolen

Det Ch Insp Chris Balmer, from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit, which helped to serve the warrants, said the ram-raids affected "rural communities who lost their access to cash machines" and those who had "cars and machinery stolen by the gang in order to carry out the crimes".

"We will continue to pursue criminals after they have been convicted at court in order to strip them of any assets they may have gained," he said.

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