An organised crime gang have been convicted of stealing more than £40,000 after targeting gaming machines across the North East.
Over a period of nearly two years, 100 gaming machines at pubs and clubs across Tyne and Wear, Durham, Yorkshire and Humberside were targeted by thieves.
They would target the machines during opening hours and use the same technique to steal cash from inside the machine and then make off undetected.
A getaway driver for the gang would wait outside the premises while a group of men entered the pub to commit the offences.
One of the gang would distract staff while the others played on the machines. They would then break open the machine and steal money from inside.
The gang committed over 100 offences which were committed over a 40-month period between March 2016 and July 2019. The profits from the crimes were estimated to be more than £40,000.
Detectives from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) launched an investigation after linking the offences. They worked with both Northumbria Police and Durham Constabulary in a collaborative operation to identify those involved.
Ten men were arrested and later charged with conspiracy to commit theft. They all admitted the offences on Friday (September 27) they were sentenced at Newcastle Crown Court.
Detective Constables Gillian Coulson and Gareth Welsh led the investigation along with officers from Durham, and they described the offending as "prolific."
DC Coulson said: "This Operation was focused on targeting a prolific criminal gang who made off with tens of thousands of pounds from gaming machines.
"Ultimately we have been able to catch up with the gang because their greed got the best of them and they did not know when to stop.
"They thought that committing offences across the whole of the North East would make it more difficult for us to catch them but they clearly underestimated us.
"We worked closely with other Police forces in the region as part of Operation Sentinel to find patterns of criminal activity and collate huge bundles of evidence for the case.
“I want to thank everyone involve for their hard work in bringing these men before the Courts.”
A court heard that not all 10 defendants were responsible for all 100 offences and that the offences had been committed in smaller groups.
However, they were charged with conspiracy to commit theft which means they were convicted as operating as a group to carry out multiple offences.
All 10 defendants were sentenced before Newcastle Crown Court on Friday September 27. They previously appeared at the court back in April where they all admitted a charge of conspiracy to commit theft.
- Kevin Skelton, 27, of Beechwood Street, Sunderland, was sentenced to three months imprisonment and a Criminal Behaviour Order of five years.
- Sean Dryden, 31, of Brecon Place, Perkinsville, Chester-le-Street, was sentenced to nine months suspended for 18 months.
- Paul Logan Snr, 60, of Beechwood Street, Sunderland, sentenced to 30 weeks suspended for 18 months
- Paul Logan Jnr, 29, of Lyn Close, Pelton, Durham, sentenced to nine months suspended for 18 months and 180 of unpaid work
- Timothy Pye, 30, of Hamserley Gardens, Stanley, sentenced to 58 weeks suspended for 18 months and 240 of unpaid work
- Richard Pearce, 29, of Dean View, Stanley, sentenced to 50 weeks suspended for 18 months and 100 hours unpaid work
- Adam Brown, 30, of Whitstable Close, Chaddeton, Oldham, sentenced to 36 weeks suspended for 18 months, 180 hours of unpaid work, a Criminal Behaviour Order for five years and must pay £2400 in compensation
- Liam Mitchell, 25, of Gairloch Drive, Chester-le-Street, sentenced to 15 weeks suspended for 18 months and 100 hours of unpaid work
- Rhys Stobbart, 24, of Second Avenue, Chester-le-Street, sentenced to 19 weeks suspended for 2 years with 200 hours unpaid work and a Criminal behaviour order for five years
- Adrian Pye, 35, of Wesley Terrace, Anfield Plain, County Durham, was given a 12 month community order and 50 hours unpaid work.