Four jailed for selling stolen items to police second hand shop - Luton

02/09/2013

Four drug addicts, who sold electrical goods, identity documents, bank cards and mobile phones to undercover police officers were jailed for a total of 87 months today, Monday, 02 September 2013.

The woman and three men were arrested after Bedfordshire Police opened a second hand shop in High Town, Luton between June last year and February.

The shop, called 'This and That' was manned by undercover officers called 'Joanne' and 'Lee' who bought and sold items on the premises, on the streets or at the customers' homes. It was part of a police operation code-named Operation Generous, Luton Crown Court heard.

Beverly Cripps prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Natasha Merrifield visited the shop 40 times between October and February and was paid a total of £6,425 for passports, foreign identity documents, banks cards, a phone, a SatNav, and a Iphone. She was also involved in stealing a mobile phone and a woman's handbag that contained two bank cards, NHS documents, and a driving licence.

South African, John Parish made 39 visits to the shop selling 55 documents for a total of £1800 between June last year and February. These were  passports, driving licences, bank cards, cheque books and a social security card. He also offered to sell Lee drugs and gave him samples of cannabis and heroin.

Ms Cripps said Shakaru Marage made 14 visits to the shop and sold 80 items: passports, driving licences, identity documents, bank cards, and NHS identity cards. When questioned by the police he said he was a heroin user who was trying to reduce his debt by taking goods to the police's shop to reduce his debts. He received a total of £3,150.

James Lawson, who was known as Jordan, sold electrical items that he knew were stolen. These included a computer, cameras, a laptop, phone, and a Walkman. He did not sell any documents. In all he was paid £1,785.

Natasha Merrifield, 37, of Montrose Avenue, Luton pleaded guilty to 10 counts. She had 11 convictions for 28 offences.

John Parish, 31, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to six counts. He had three convictions for 10 offences.

Shakaru Marage, 37, of Dordans Road, Luton pleaded guilty to eight counts. He had three convictions for eight offences including drugs and firearms.

James Lawson, 21, of Kingston Road, Luton  pleaded guilty to seven counts of converting criminal property. He had 11 convictions for 22 offences.

For Merrifield and Parish, Stuart Sprawson said: "The police acted legitimately in an authorised operation, but there is a fine line between a legitimate operation and entrapment. A market was created here by the shop and it grew because of it. The defendants were drawn into the situation from their own vulnerability."

He said Merrifield's record reflected her past, which included offences for acquisitive crime and prostitution. He said Parish had come to the UK from South Africa a few years ago and was supported by his partner.

Stefan Weidmann, for Marage said he had served eight years of a 12 year sentence in 1999 for supplying drugs, but on his release the father of three had a job, which he lost in the recession.

For Lawson, Christopher Strachan, said he had a cocaine habit that was costing £120 a day. On his release he wanted to move away from Luton to Leeds.

Judge Stuart Bridge told them: "All four of you are addicted. These are serious offences for which I must pass an immediate custodial sentence."

He sentenced Merrifield to 30 months, Parish to 27 months, Marage to 18 months and Lawson to 12 months.

Please note - all court copies are provided by South Beds News Agency, who retain the copyright for all articles published.