Two members of an Organised Criminal Gang (OCG) were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court yesterday, Wednesday, 16 June for their part in the theft and disposal of over £3 million worth of vehicles from the London area.
The men were convicted of participating in a criminal enterprise that saw hundreds of vehicles stolen from London, as well as the Home Counties. Most of the stolen vehicles were dismantled in the UK shortly after being stolen, with the parts then being exported to Lithuania.
During the investigation officers established that some of the vehicles had their identities changed to make them appear to be legitimate vehicles – a process known as ‘ringing’. The vehicles most commonly targeted were luxury SUVs which were stolen without keys using a method called Relay Station Attack, where the gang used equipment that enabled them to drive off in vehicles fitted with keyless entry/start systems without the key being present.
The gang made extensive use of signal jamming technology to block the signal from vehicle tracking devices before taking them to one of seven identified industrial units where they were immediately dismantled. All bar one of these dismantling sites were located outside London, with stolen vehicles being taken as far afield as Northamptonshire and Derbyshire to be stripped.
[A] Adolis Grigunas, 29 (30.11.91) of Wharf Road, Grays, Essex was sentenced to seven years and three months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of conspiracy to convert criminal property and conspiracy to steal.
[B] Andrius Stanelka, 36 (23.01.85) of Nelson Road, Rainham, was sentenced to seven years and six months’ imprisonment after being found guilty of conspiracy to convert criminal property and conspiracy to steal.
Four additional men were previously sentenced at Southwark Crown Court.
[C] Karolis Stanevicius, 36 (01.06.85) of Rainham, Havering was sentenced on Monday, 29 March to six years’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property.
[D] Rimgaudas Magomedovas, 46 (27.10.74) of Fanns Rise, Purfleet, Essex was sentenced on Monday, 21 December to six years and nine months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property.
[E] Darius Mitrulevicius, 44 (10.05.77) of Water Lane, Purfleet, Essex was sentenced on Thursday, 24 September to five years and five months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property.
A further man [F] was sentenced on Friday, 26 June 2020 to 27 months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.
All the men sentenced are Lithuanian nationals.
Following an investigation by the Met’s Organised Vehicle Crime Unit, part of Central Specialist Crime, the key members of the criminal group were identified and on Thursday, 14 June, 2018, after search warrants were executed at three addresses in Hornchurch and Purfleet.
Outside the address of Stanevicius, the gang’s leader, two stolen rung vehicles were recovered. Inside the address over £8,000 in cash was seized, along with a bank card for an account that had been set up exclusively for the purpose of laundering the proceeds of the criminal activity.
At the address of Magomedovas another two stolen rung vehicles were recovered, along with over £2,000 in cash and equipment used for the production of number plates.
As well as being necessary to ‘ring’ a stolen vehicle, the gang routinely used false number plates to disguise the identity of a vehicle during its journey to the location where it was to be dismantled.
Enquiries by the police established that the gang had purchased over 350 sets of blank number plates, each one for use on a stolen vehicle.
The third address was the home of Mitrulevicius. Two rung vehicles were recovered there along with various items used in the course of ringing vehicles and property from stolen vehicles.
All three were arrested. Following the conclusion of the searches, a fourth gang member, Stanelka, was observed by an officer to meet with Stanevicius’ partner near to the address which had just been searched. He was stopped and the vehicle he was driving was also found to be a rung stolen car. He was also arrested.
The four men were released under investigation whilst enquiries continued. However, in early 2019 another dismantling site was discovered in Cressing, Essex, and the investigating team quickly linked this to the gang.
On Tuesday, 30 April, 2019, Stanevicius was again arrested and a search of his home yielded another £8,000 in cash. He was charged and remanded in custody. In total six members of the gang were charged with conspiracy to steal and conspiracy to convert criminal property.
Detective Inspector Pete Ellis, who led the investigation, said: “This was a sophisticated and well organised criminal enterprise. Extensive use was made of false identities of both vehicles and the gang, forged documents and multiple bank accounts by those controlling the activity in an effort to evade detection. Evidence of over 130 vehicles stolen by the gang was presented to the court, but the true figure is undoubtedly much higher. This case illustrates the Met’s ongoing work to tackle vehicle theft and organised crime.
“To help protect your car from theft, keep keys for vehicles with keyless entry/start in a security pouch (sometimes referred to as a Faraday pouch) when not in use, and particularly overnight. We would also suggest owners invest in a decent steering wheel lock to deter criminal even further.”
Stanelka and Girgunas pleaded not guilty and a trial was listed at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, 24 May 2021. They were both convicted of conspiracy to convert criminal property and conspiracy to steal and sentenced in their absence, having absconded prior to the start of the trial.