Steven Crombie and associate Brandon Meah admitted a large-scale conspiracy to commit burglary across the region and are now behind bars
A callous criminal who masterminded a £170,000 burglary conspiracy across Sunderland and South Tyneside has been jailed.
Steven Crombie, 40, raided homes and motor vehicles across the region during a relentless three-month offending spree last year.
His criminality – which included stealing a black Range Rover, hordes of jewellery and a prestigious Queen’s OBE award – is believed to have cost victims up to £170,000.
Crombie, along with associate Brandon Meah, 20, appeared before Newcastle Crown Court charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.
His partner Cheryl Robinson, 41, was charged with handling stolen goods, Meah’s partner Laura Churchill, 20, was charged with assisting an offender, while Crombie’s brother-in-law Keith Patterson, 49, faced a charge of acquiring and possessing criminal property.
Last month (April), the five defendants pleaded guilty to all charges at Newcastle Crown Court.
Today (Friday), Crombie was sentenced to seven years and two months behind bars, while Meah was jailed for three years and seven months.
Robinson received a 22-month custodial sentence, while Churchill and Patterson were handed an 11-month sentence suspended for 12 months.
PC Graeme Rockett, of Northumbria Police, said: “Steven Crombie has been prolific in his offending and has caused misery to a huge number of residents across Sunderland and South Tyneside.
“He has shown a total disregard to the law and his victims through his selfish actions, and stole a huge amount of property which was of significant sentimental value to the victims.
“Burglary is an incredibly emotive crime and this was a large-scale burglary conspiracy estimated to be worth up to £170,000.
“Thousands of valuable items were stolen from homes and vehicles across the region, and while officers have managed to recover many of those goods, some sentimental items – including a distinctive urn containing the ashes of the victim’s father - remain outstanding.
“I hope today’s sentences send out a clear message that, as a Force, we are committed to tackling burglary and car crime and we will use every resource at our disposal to ensure prolific offenders are convicted and brought to justice for their crimes.
“I would like to thank all of the victims who helped us bring these criminals before the courts, as well as the team of detectives who worked tirelessly on this 12-month investigation.”
The court heard a black Range Rover was stolen from an address in Cleadon, South Tyneside, in March last year along with £36,000 cash, quantities of jewellery and various bank cards.
The vehicle was later found to have been used by Crombie and his associates to commit a number of other crimes, with the offenders using a number of stolen registration plates to avoid detection.
Crombie went on to burgle several more homes in May and June 2018, stealing hundreds of valuable and sentimental items including ornamental swords, a Paul Reed Smith guitar and a Queen’s OBE award which was given to the victim’s grandfather 65 years ago.
A decorative urn containing the ashes of another victim’s deceased father was also stolen from a property on Success Road, Houghton-le-Spring, which remains outstanding. Officers are appealing for anyone who knows its whereabouts to get in touch.
But when Crombie cut himself as he smashed his way into an address in Woodstone Village, County Durham, on May 9 last year, the light-fingered thief inadvertently left blood at the scene that later came back as a forensic match.
On June 11, just three days after another burglary in Coast Road, Whitburn, Crombie was seen entering a pawnbroker in Newcastle with girlfriend Robinson. The pair were found to be in possession of some of the stolen jewellery, which they sold for £738.50.
Between March and June 2018, police were also alerted to several thefts from motor vehicles across Sunderland and South Tyneside –which were later linked to Crombie.
But the net began to tighten after he mistakenly dropped a cigarette between the front driver and passenger seat of a vehicle broken into on Bede Street, Sunderland, which contained traces of his DNA.
On June 1, Crombie was also caught on CCTV breaking into a car in the Metro Centre car park. He went on to steal £250 worth of goods, including cash, a baby rattle and aftershave.
He then proceeded to take the stolen items to another vehicle, which was registered in his name, before driving off with the goods.
Days later, motor patrols officers spotted the stolen black Range Rover – which was displaying stolen number plates – in the Shiney Row area.
Occupied by Crombie and Meah, the vehicle failed to stop and accelerated away from officers during a short pursuit, before it was left abandoned after being in collision with a garden wall.
While executing a warrant to search Crombie and Robinson’s Hampstead Square address, officers recovered a number of items identified to have been stolen in the previous burglaries.
Further stolen items were also found in addresses belonging to Meah and Churchill, as well as in a storage unit on Colima Avenue, Sunderland, which had been opened by Robinson.
Crombie, of Hampstead Square, Sunderland, admitted conspiracy to commit burglary and was jailed for seven years and two months due to his guilty plea.
Meah, of Rutland Street, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and received a sentence of three years and seven months.
Robinson, of Hampstead Square, Sunderland, admitted handling stolen goods and was sentenced to 22 months' imprisonment.
Churchill, of Rutland Street, Sunderland, pleaded guilty to assisting an offender and was handed an 11-month sentence, suspended for 12 months, plus 150 hours of community service.
Patterson, of Yewtree Avenue, Sunderland, also received an 11-month sentence after admitting acquiring and possessing criminal property, plus 100 hours' community service.