Gang jailed for robberies across south Wales
Six members of a gang who carried out a string of violent robberies across south Wales have been jailed.
They included Patrick Smeda, of Cardiff, Carlos Corlett, of Liverpool and Anthony Crooks, of Newport, jailed for 14, 15 and 12 years respectively.
The gang stole £180,000 between March and September 2008 after raids on a building society and a superstore, Newport Crown Court heard.
The arrests followed a joint operation by Gwent Police and South Wales Police.
The court heard that in pre-planned operations, the men stormed into small rooms behind cash machines, wearing balaclavas or stockings over their heads, and threatened violence as security company employees refilled the machines.
One on occasion one of the robbers brandished a screwdriver, and on another occasion one was armed with a knife.
They also attempted to ram raid a convenience store to steal money from the cash machine inside and burgled houses in England and Wales to steal car keys to use as getaway vehicles.
Hugh Evans, prosecuting, told the court that the gang's criminal activity was spread out over the Avon, Gwent and South Wales Police areas.
He said: "This resulted in the investigating teams taking some time to realise that it was a single gang which was responsible for all the offending."
Judge Christopher Llewellyn-Jones said the robberies were "systematic and planned".
The judge said Corlett's crimes were aggravated by the fact he was on licence at the time of the offences after being jailed for nine years in Liverpool for armed robbery in 2001.
When two members of the public, Greg Barker and Lee Williams, tried to help the security guards resist the gang at a Tesco cash machine on Manor Way, they too were threatened.
After the sentencing the judge commended the bravery the men had shown.
Three other members of the gang were jailed for a violent domestic burglary in Whitchurch, Cardiff.
After the hearing Det Ch Supt Adrian Erasmus of Gwent Police said the case was a good example of how police forces could work productively together.
"Today's sentence concludes a long and complex investigation into the activities of an organised crime group involving criminals from Liverpool, Cardiff and Newport," he said.
He added: "I have no doubt whatsoever that the people who chose to commit these crimes did so in the belief they would not be caught. Clearly they were mistaken."
Hugh Gilmour, regional risk director of G4S Cash Solutions, the security company employed to stock the Nationwide and Tesco cash machines, welcomed the sentences, which he said "sent out a strong message to those considering attacking a cash-in-transit courier in the area".