A criminal gang who committed theft near Whitby have been sent to prison for a combined term of more than 11 years.
Brian Smith, Elijah Boswell, Glen Hepburn, Michael Tillotson, and Mark Ella were charged with conspiracy to steal after officers discovered that they had either stolen or cut cable in preparation to be taken away from 11 British Telecom sites across the county between October 2012 and January 2013.
They targeted remote areas, often at night in an effort to avoid detection, but were caught when they were stopped travelling in convoy away from the scene of a cable theft on the A171 Whitby to Scarborough Road at around 8pm on January 8 this year.
The total scrap value of the cable they had taken was more than £33,000, with a replacement value to BT of over £50,000.
Detective Inspector Mark Pearson, of North Yorkshire Police Organised Crime Unit, welcomed the sentences.
He said: “These men were travelling around North Yorkshire stealing cable from isolated locations which was costing tens of thousands of pounds to replace and leaving residents without power.
“They were very active over a number of months before we caught up with them and since they were arrested there haven’t been any similar incidents in the county.
The gang used large metal keys, only available to BT engineers, and specialist hydraulic lifting equipment to open manhole covers and access the cable which was installed at a minimum depth of 1.5 metres below the ground.
Officers found stolen BT cable in one of their vehicles and metal BT devices that are used to open manhole covers in both of the vehicles they were travelling in.
Following further investigations, the gang were linked to a further 10 thefts, including incidents on the A171 near the Falcon Inn and on Fylingdales Moor, near to the Flask Inn.
Det Insp Pearson added: “Organised crime groups like this have the potential to really impact on the quality of life in our communities, which is why we have a specialist unit to target criminal gangs and disrupt and detect their activities.
“A great deal of effort from officers within North Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit went into this investigation and thankfully this particular gang are now serving prison sentences which their actions deserve.
“Organised crime is a priority for North Yorkshire Police and this is just the latest of a number of convictions we have secured recently for criminal gangs operating in our area.”
All five men pleaded guilty to all 11 thefts at Teesside Crown Court at an earlier hearing.
On Thursday they returned to the court for sentencing.
Brian Smith, 37, of James Street, York, was jailed for 27 months. However his sentence will run concurrently to a nine-year-sentence he also received today for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in York.
Boswell, 26, of Smithies Lane, Barnsley, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
Hepburn, 35, of Gaitskell Walk, Leeds, was jailed for two years and three months.
Tillotson, 45, of Airy Hill, Filey, received a jail sentence of two years and nine months, and Ella, 39, of Bramham Avenue, York, was sent to prison for 12 months.
If you know of anyone who is involved in organised crime, please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 – select option 2 – and pass information to the Force Control Room.
If you prefer not to give your name, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.