Berkshire

Hugh O'Donnell jailed for illegal waste site near Reading

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Media captionHugh O'Donnell dumped thousands of tonnes of waste illegally

A crime boss who ran an illegal waste site has been jailed for four years - just a day after being released from prison for a firearms offences.

Hugh O'Donnell, 63, laundered millions of pounds in profit by leading a group who dumped building waste at a site near Reading, between 2006 and 2008.

The Environment Agency said it was the biggest court case it had ever brought.

O'Donnell, of Reading, and two other men from the town pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to two charges.

The court heard how O'Donnell's illegal waste business netted millions of pounds of profit by taking skips or lorry loads of construction and demolition waste into the Aldermaston site to be dumped in an illegal landfill.

Unlicensed handgun

During a raid by the Environment Agency and Thames Valley Police on the illegal waste site in 2008, an unlicensed handgun, ammunition, stolen vehicles and more than £50,000 were seized.

O'Donnell, of Andrews Close, received a four and a half year prison sentence for possession of the firearm in 2009.

He was released from prison on Thursday but then received his latest sentence for money laundering and waste offences, the following day.

O'Donnell, along with Peter Lavelle, 28, of Blenheim Terrace; and Robert Evans, 61, of Lynmouth Road, admitted acquiring, using and possessing criminal property and depositing, without licence, controlled special waste, in or on land.

A fourth man originally arrested was released without charge.

Lavelle was sentenced to 18 months in prison and Evans was jailed for two years.

Image caption Police and the Environment Agency carried out secret surveillance for more than a year

O'Donnell, who has previously been jailed for six months for waste offences, used Lavelle and Evans to set-up and run the day-to-day operations of a string of fake businesses in a bid to avoid detection, by using aliases and intimidation, the court heard.

The Environment Agency used forensic techniques including DNA and handwriting analysis, fingerprinting, mobile phone and laptop interrogation to track members of the gang.

Activity on the site stopped in late 2008 after the arrest and imprisonment of O'Donnell for possession of the illegal firearm.

'Deliberate and calculated'

Sentencing the three men, Judge Edmonds, QC, said: "This is deliberate and calculated offending on an industrial scale for profit.

"You carried carried on in spite of efforts to stop you and with the clear intention of making as much criminal profit out of the offences as you could before you were stopped."

The Environment Agency's solicitor, Angus Innes, described their investigation as "one of the most biggest and most complex ever undertaken".

He said the sentence sent a clear message to others contemplating waste crime.

He said: "This is a clear deterrent for others, and there are many of them, in the illegal waste industry, that their activity will be closed down, their profits will be taken, and they'll end up in jail if they don't stop."

The land had been ranked as the South East's highest risk and highest priority illegal waste site.

Restraint orders, preventing the disposal of over £1m worth of assets, have also been in place for the past two years.

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