Gang of mobile phone raiders jailed - South East England

01/06/2016

A gang of masked raiders, armed with sledge hammers, stole over £300,000 pounds worth of mobile phones in a series of terrifying raids.

Kurtis Lamptey, aged 26, Ajay Singh, aged 25, and Sonny Lockwood, aged 28, targeted phone shops over a wide area in South East England.

Ann Evans, prosecuting for Thames and Chiltern Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) told St Albans Crown Court today, Wednesday, 01 June 2016, that the raids were carried out between the end of November and the end of December last year. She said: "Entry to the shops, in most cases, was effected by the offenders smashing their way through the front window of the shop with sledge hammers and, in one case, a stolen BMW was driven through the front of the shop to gain access. The vehicles used in the raids have all been stolen from dwelling house burglaries and their identities changed by cloning number plates. The number plates relate to a similar type of vehicle. This, at first blush, not arousing suspicion if checked on ANPR. Most of these offences have been committed during the hours of darkness when the shops are closed but, on two occasions, staff have been taken to the rear of the shops, locked in the toilets or made to squat in the corner of the room with their hands up."

Singh, who was identified by CCTV, admitted being one of three men in balaclavas who raided Carphone Warehouse in Weybridge, Surrey on 28 November at ten to six in the evening. One of the men grabbed a sales consultant by the arm and said: "Babes, put in the code, put in the code." This allowed the men to walk into the store room and steal 121 phones worth over £45,000. The assistant was told to kneel on the floor and face the wall and was told she would not be hurt.

On 7 December, Lockwood admitted he stole the number plates of a BMW M Sport that was parked in Charlton Road, Blackheath. The previous day a black BMW had been stolen from Croydon. At 4am the next day, 8 December, all three defendants raided the 3 Store in Priory Meadow Shopping Centre in Hastings. Three men got out of a black BMW, pulled sledge hammers out of a bag and smashed their way into the front of the shop. An attempt to move the safe failed. No phones were taken. £300 damage was caused. A CCTV operator called the police, but after a chase, the gang managed to get away. Singh and Lockwood were identified from CCTV stills.

All three men wore balaclavas when they raided the Carphone Warehouse in Oxford in the mid-morning on 9 December. One ran at a member of staff and demanded his phone. Another assistant was told to let the men in the stock room. The assistant remembers one man holding open a builder's bag whilst another swept the phones off the shelves. Both sales assistants were forced into the toilet and the other assistant was ordered to hand over his phone. 114 handsets were taken, two tills were opened, and cash removed, and the CCTV unit damaged. The total loss was £32,742 of phones and £1,200 for demonstrators.

At around ten past eight at night on 16 December Lamptey and Lockwood used sledge hammers on a metal door at  02 Tonbridge, but couldn't get in. £500 damage was caused. Just before midnight that night Lamptey and Singh broke into the 3 Store in Orpington after forcing up metal rollers at the rear of the store by hitting them with sledge hammers. 90 per cent of the stock, valued at £63,741 was taken. Six hours later, early on 17 December, Lamptey and Singh smashed their way through the front door of the 3 store in Guildford and cleared the shelves of £77,533 stock.

All three defendants were involved in a raid at two o'clock in the morning on 30 December at the EE store in Bishop's Stortford. They forced their way into the store room and took phones valued at around £30,000. Two hours later they reversed a car into the 02 shop at Galleons Reach near London City Airport in East London. The loss was £56,000 and damage £6,000.

Police identified Kurtis Lamptey and went to his home in Swanfield Street, East London. He jumped out of a window, but was arrested. On the floor was a shopping list detailing phones and prices and a key from the stolen BMW. Brand new electrical goods, expensive jewellery and £20,000 cash was seized. Two sledgehammers were in the boot of the BMW. Lockwood, who was seen leaving the Swanfield Street address, was arrested and had £6,000 in his pocket. Singh was later arrested in Buxhall Crescent, Hackney.

Mrs Evans said the total value of the loss was £306,632.95. Very few phones were recovered, the court heard.

Lamptey, of Swanfield Street, Hackney E2, and Singh of Buckhall Crescent, Hackney, pleaded guilty to seven burglaries. Lockwood of Parkside, Halsted, Sevenoaks admitted four burglaries and theft of number plates.

Judge Andrew Bright QC told the men: "You were part of a well organised team of burglars targeting phone stores in the south east of England. Huge numbers of telephones were stolen, mostly in hours of darkness. The offences well planned. You wore balaclavas, were equipped with sledge hammers and getaway cars."

Lamptey and Singh were both jailed for six years. They were told they were leading members of the burglary team. Lockwood was sentenced to 5 years and 4 months.

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