Accrington mechanic caught in police ‘sting’ operation after stealing from farms (From Blackburn Citizen)
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Accrington mechanic caught in police ‘sting’ operation after stealing from farms
A MECHANIC has been jailed for two years for his part in a conspiracy in which £123,000 of farming machinery was stolen, causing ‘misery’ to several small businesses.
Barry Holden, 54, of Canal Street, Accrington, was sentenced yesterday alongside two other men, although Burnley Crown Court heard none of them were key players.
The court heard a ‘specialist team’ stole 11 pieces of machinery from various farms between October 2010 and April 2011, before it was advertised and sold through the internet auction website Ebay.
The items included a Yamaha lawnmower, a Cat excavator and a dump truck.
Jonathan Savage, defending Holden, said the ‘guiding hand’ in the conspiracy was a man called ‘Paul Chadwick’, who initially employed Holden to fix machinery, before becoming a ‘meet and greet’ man for customers, to answer questions and take payments.
Police caught Holden in a sting operation by posing as customers, while paperwork in his van was linked to some of the other stolen items, the court heard.
Officers also found dye stamps which had been used to alter the identity of machinery.
Holden admitted conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
Gary Kay, 33, of Burnley Road, Accrington, and Ashley Walsh, 27, of France Street, Church admitted the same charge, having supplied Ebay accounts to advertise and sell the items.
They were both given nine-month jail sentences, suspended for 18 months, but will have to complete 240 hours of community service.
Police have recovered about £62,000 of the stolen items, but prosecutors will pursue the defendants through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Recorder Philip Parry said thefts of plant equipment resulted in an annual loss to the farming industry of up to £1bn per year.
He added: “This can cause small businesses to close with devastating consequences that follow.
“This is not a victimless crime.
“You share a heavy responsibility for the misery this causes to families and businesses.
“You all played a role in this specialist team.”
He said Holden was ‘at the very heart of this conspiracy’, but added it was ‘plainly orchestrated by somebody else’.
After the hearing, Lancashire Police said that ‘Paul Chadwick’ had never been investigated.