DC Vince Wise recieving the Award on behalf of the Organised Crime Intelligence Unit of Hampshire Constabulary from Deputy Chief Constable
The award was presented at the 2008 EU Branch IAATI Seminar held in Tallinn, Estonia.
It can be sometimes forgotten that vehicles can refer to items other than cars and trucks. Criminal certainly do not, all they look at is an items value. Agricultural, plant & construction equipment are expensive items and criminals target these as much as ‘vehicles’. The other thing, as has been shown at recent IAATI seminars, is that the recovery rate for this type of equipment is very low.
In 2008 we honoured an operation run by Hampshire Police of the United Kingdom called Operation Newly.
The citation reads:
In March 2006, two Hampshire Police officers visited the premises of second plant dealer, Mark Thompson. At the premises was a member of staff and a customer. The owner was on holiday with his family in Dubai.
The member of staff was unable to assist with access to the companies invoices. Enquiries turned to a JCB Telescopic Handler which was on a low-loader in the yard. The member of staff indicated that the customer, Jason Ralph, was trying to sell the machine. Ralph was spoken to and indicated that he was just a broker on behalf of a man he only knew by his first name, and had a mobile number somewhere for him. Ralph’s inability to stand still and stop smoking indicated, all was not well. The SL55 AMG Mercedes on a personalised plate being driven by Ralph, was also not in keeping with a man who claimed to be a bankrupt.
Checks with the JCB factory revealed that the telehandler was a machine made for the Italian market. The chassis number and engine number appeared to be good, this was also supported by a check of the recorded component numbers, on the factory build sheet. However, something didn’t add up, and taking an educated guess the machine was checked using acetone. The paint fell off, more importantly the genuine number could be seen underneath. Ralph was arrested.
The dealer was spoken to upon his return from his holiday. He was asked about his previous dealings with Ralph, and to produce any paperwork. The dealer was unable to be precise, but stated he had purchased a couple of machines from Ralph in the past; but would have to check his invoices, which were with his accountant. A few days later the dealer produced invoices for three machines. One of the machines was located nearby. An inspection within the hour identified the Manitou machine as being stolen, ‘rung’ onto the identification of a genuine machine in Spain. The next machine was traced to a company in Hertfordshire; a visit to the premises revealed the machine was in Lithuania. The identification was again of another machine elsewhere in Europe. This information was passed to the new owner, who wanting to protect his company’s reputation arranged for the machine to be returned to the UK. This was identified upon its return as stolen, rung in the same way. The third invoice related to another machine in the Sussex, again this was inspected and found to be rung in the same manner.
The original Dealer claimed to be a victim, and blamed everything on Ralph, and compensated the three parties concerned for the machines seized by Police. In the investigation that followed, the dealers HPI account was identified and was used to ascertain the dates the machines had been offered for sale. These had been within days of the actual thefts taking place. Upon closer examination the HPI account was recognised as having checked a large amount of Telescopic handlers, over the previous two years. There were many difficulties in this process due to the manner in which plant is recorded in the UK, some using the 17 digit format others 7, others using abbreviated versions. However cross checks with the manufactures’, JCB, Manitou and Caterpillar and Merlo, revealed the identity of machines made for the world market, not the UK. With the assistance of customer services for the countries concerned a number of machines were located from Russia to the USA, including most European countries, that indicated the genuine machines had been supplied to the countries concerned and were still in the possession of first customers.
Over the next few months, another ten machines were located in England. All were tracked down by many methods. All were identified as being stolen ‘rung’ machines with an average stolen value in excess of £30k per machine.
The operation was fully accepted by Hampshire Constabulary and developed under the operational name of ’Newly’. Further machines were located in Scotland, Wales, Northern and Southern Ireland, Poland, Finland, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Australia and , Dubai. In total 62 machines were identified as being’ Highly Suspect’.
Working with the foreign Police forces and European IAATI , together with a lot of advanced planning with the Force Recovery agent, IAATI member, Dave Silver, a total of 54 machines were located, confirmed as stolen and recovered. The logistics of recovering such a volume of large heavy machines in sometimes ‘Hostile’ areas, pushed organisational skills to new levels.
In October 2006 the two men were arrested, together with a third male, Phillip Harvey, who had acted as the money man. The case was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service, and charges were agreed.
All three stood trial at Bournemouth Crown Court in June 2008, in a trial that lasted for over 6 weeks. All three were found guilty of Conspiracy to handle stolen goods. All three are awaiting sentencing on the 15th August 2008.
During this operation the value of the stolen machines recovered exceeded £1.5m. Which will be returned to the Insurance companies. Under new UK legislation the Police are now able to seize and confiscate the proceeds of crime. Each defendant is effectively liable for the full amount each, i.e. a total of approximately £4.5m.
Thompson was once described by his accountant ‘as being able to turn everything he touched into gold’.
When this matter comes to court for a confiscation hearing, it is believed that this could be the largest seizure of assets under the new legislation with a realistic chance of recovering the monies concerned for Hampshire Police. The matter is also being investigated by the ‘Official Receiver’ as Thompson put his company into liquidation, half way through this investigation to avoid his debtors. It is believed the Official Receiver, will also seek full compensation on behalf of the debtors due to the assets available.
This is believed to be the largest UK Police Plant Operation to date in the volume, size, value and countries concerned.
Unfortunately the officers from Hampshire Constabulary, DC Vince Wise, DC Wayne Brook & DC Simon Hodgeson were not able to attend the 2008 Seminar so the award was accepted on their behalf by Detective Inspector Mark Hooper of AVCIS (the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service) from Ari Huhtinen, President of the European Branch of IAATI.
The Award was subsequently presented to DC Vince Wise of Hampshire Police at the AVCIS Vehicle Enabled Crime Conference held at its HQ at Ryton-on-Dunsmore, UK on Friday 27th February 2009. The award was presented by Deputy Chief Constable David Ainsworth of Wiltshire Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers’ lead on vehicle crime and Barry Hancock, 2nd Vice-President of the European Branch of IAATI.