A gang of five men have been jailed for conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery for a combined total of more than 30 years.
Police said Jason Mobey, Jimmy Shea and Les Keet, conspired to target various ATMs across Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, stealing in excess of half a million and causing approximately £900,000 in damage between July and November 2018.
Jason Mobey, Les Keet, Eric Summerfield and Melvyn Beech further conspired to violently rob a Surrey resident within their home.
The gang would use heavy machinery to carry out the ram raids before stealing the cash machines during the hours of darkness.
Heavy machinery and getaway vehicles would be stolen, generally from close proximity to offence locations with the group favouring rural farming locations or housing developments.
Many of the vehicles stolen were subsequently burnt out in an attempt to destroy evidence.
Police said the conspiracy related to 11 offences in total, one of which dated from September 9 last year at the Co-op in Rudgwick at around 2.45am, one from September 19 last year at 4.25am at Nutbourne Service Station, near Chichester and another dating from October 12, 2018 at 4.20am at Sainsbury’s Local, High Street, Billingshurst.
The lengthy and complex investigation to identify the men involved in the conspiracies was run by Surrey and Sussex Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit and involved gathering CCTV evidence, forensic investigations, piecing together a large volume of information provided by members of the public and covert tactics.
After gathering sufficient evidence, 70 officers from Surrey Police with the assistance of Sussex Police and Hampshire Constabulary, conducted various pre-dawn raids on December 20, 2018. During these searches police recovered clothing, vehicles and lifting/cutting equipment relating to offences.
This gave officers additional evidence to charge the quintet and they all pleaded guilty in April.
Head of Serious Organised Crime for Surrey and Sussex, Detective Superintendent Karen Mizzi said: “The sentences handed down show the seriousness of these crimes.
“This successful result was due to the teamwork involved and I am grateful to all of the officers involved in bringing these men to justice.
“This organised crime group were relentless but we were able to gather enough evidence to arrest them and put them before the courts.
“This included the sharing of information between neighbouring forces and partner agencies, which was a massive help in progressing this investigation.
“This investigation by our officers has been recognised at a national level at the NPCC National Commercial Robbery Conference in the Protect category.
“The award was for the innovative work to safeguard businesses and communities and we were commended for our collaborative and joint working during the operation.
“ATM thefts are a national issue and we will work with all our neighbouring forces, and on a national level, to ensure that these organised crime groups are stopped at source.”
The thefts led to significant costs for ATM provider, Cardtronics, which suffered sizable losses as a result.
A Cardtronics spokesman wrote in the business impact statement: “Criminals think this is a victimless crime and they can’t be more wrong as when they steal monies this means as a business that is self-insured the people in the company could lose their jobs as the attacks, losses and monies stolen comes from the company’s bottom line.
“I can state with confidence that when our ATM machines are stolen not only do the public lose a measure of freedom but 99 per cent of the time the shop that housed the machine would have been destroyed due to the collateral damage caused by the plant machinery, some of which never reopened again.
“The audacious nature of these attacks and the continued relentlessness not only had an impact on our company resources but those of the police and the taxpayer.”
Jason Mobey, 40, of Macdonald Road, Farnham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary (non-dwelling) and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for 10 years, eight months.
Jimmy Shea, 24, of Nursery Road, Alton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary (non-dwelling). He was jailed for six years.
Les Keet, 29, of Cobbetts Close, Normandy pleaded guilty conspiracy to commit burglary (non-dwelling) and conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for eight years.
Eric Summerfield, 63, of Walnut Tree Close, Guildford pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for three years, four months.
Melvyn Beech, 47, of Kingston Road, Leatherhead pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for three years, four months.
Mobey, Shea and Keet have also been handed a Serious Crime Prevention Order, to last five years.
Libby Clark, from the CPS, said: “These were a series of audacious, but very carefully planned raids, with the defendants stealing the equipment they needed from nearby building sites, so they could then repeatedly ram the ATMs and remove them, before taking them to remote areas to remove the cash from them.
“The impact of these robberies cannot be underestimated. It’s not just about the money they escaped with. In some cases, there were flats above the cash machines and large scale structural damage was caused to a number of the buildings. None of us can imagine the fear that people living in those flats would have experienced during the raid.
“Such was the weight of evidence against the gang that they were left with no option but to plead guilty.”