Criminals hit in the pocket

10/05/2012

Criminals were deprived of over £1.7 million through asset recovery work by Staffordshire Police in 2011/12. The force’s Economic Crime Unit again beat annual targets, gaining 158 confiscation orders totalling £1.638 million and forfeiting £90,327 in cash from offenders between April 2011 and March 2012.

Confiscation orders, issued at court, make offenders pay back the cash equivalent of their benefit from crime - meaning they have to sell off homes, cars and other luxury items, such as jewellery, acquired through a criminal lifestyle.

Significant asset recovery cases in 2011/12 included:

  • A £270,105 confiscation order against Qi Xing Weng, from Ironbridge, who was jailed for six years after being convicted of conspiracy to produce cannabis. Weng, who owned restaurants in Stafford, Stoke-on-Trent and elsewhere, was behind one of the region's biggest cannabis factories in Birmingham
  • A £56,000 confiscation order against prolific burglar Thomas Connors Junior, from Leicestershire, who is serving a prison sentence of four years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to commit fraud. He was part of a gang who committed offences across the UK, including Staffordshire, targeting the elderly and vulnerable
  • A £179,000 confiscation order against Miles Doran, from Kettering, after he admitted money laundering and was jailed for 15 months at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court
  • A £406,000 confiscation order against Stafford fraudster Paul Cope who ran multiple businesses and was jailed for five years and four months for his leading role in a £25 million fraud

A significant amount of money recovered by the force is used to compensate crime victims. Proceeds were also used during 2011/12 to help fund Operation Nemesis - Staffordshire Police's ongoing fight against drug dealers.

POCA cash also supports community initiatives such as the Right Stuff Boxing Club, which has helped to turn around the lives of at-risk youngsters, including those in trouble with the police, across Staffordshire. The club, headed by Stone based PC Andy Whitehall, received £10,000 to cover costs including rent, utility bills, kit and awards.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Clews, head of Staffordshire Police's Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: "Our financial investigators work very closely with the Crown Prosecution Service and the courts to hit offenders in the pocket.

"Many of the people we target are involved in serious and organised crime - including drug supply and fraud  - and confiscation orders are a great tool to strip offenders of their assets.

"Criminals' money is ploughed back into the fight against drugs - through Operation Nemesis - and is helping turn youngsters' lives around through community initiatives.

"Our work to take the profit out of crime continues in 2012/13. A fortnight ago, Nigel Lawton, from Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, received a £13,192 confiscation order on top of a 20-month jail sentence for drug possession and supply charges.

"We continue to urge anyone with information about people making an unfair living from crime to ring us on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111."

Maureen Shea, Sector Crown Prosecutor from West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The CPS is committed to working with Staffordshire Police to ensure that we take the profit out of crime and wherever possible return that to the victims of their offending.  

"Over the last twelve months we have worked closely with the police to ensure that monies are recovered from defendants, including those who have tried to hide or conceal their assets.  The Proceeds of Crime Act is sending out a clear message to criminals that crime will not pay.

"The CPS is working hard with our partners to identify cases for restraint, freezing of assets of defendants and applications for confiscation orders.  We are pleased to see the significant results that have been achieved over the last twelve months and will continue to work to ensure that crime does not pay for criminals operating in Staffordshire."