£2m car cloning gang arrested
An operation to target a £2m car cloning ring has seen six people arrested and a number of high-value vehicles recovered.
The five men and a woman were arrested when officers from Leeds District Crime Team, West Yorkshire Police Protective Services Operations, and the National Crime Agency raided addresses in Leeds, Bradford and Bournemouth on Monday and Tuesday this week.
The arrests come as part of an ongoing investigation focused on the theft and cloning of 180 vehicles which have been sold throughout the UK since July 2009.
Among the vehicles recovered in the raid were an Aston Martin Vantage, worth £38,000, and an Audi Q7, worth £16,000.
On Monday, a 46-year-old man and a 43-year-old woman were arrested from an address in Alwoodley; a 32-year-old man was arrested from an address in Yeadon, and 44-year-old man was arrested from an address in Bournemouth.
The Aston Martin was among four cars seized in the Bournemouth raid along with a specialist lock-picking kit.
The Audi and a Vauxhall Vectra were recovered from one address in Yeadon and vehicle documents and number plates were seized from another Yeadon address.
A search of an industrial unit in Pudsey led to the recovery of a vehicle diagnostics machine used in the reprogramming of vehicles, a large number of number plates and a blank firing pistol.
On Tuesday, a 39-year-old man was arrested from an address in Adel, Leeds, and a 37-year-old man was arrested from an address in Idle, Bradford.
All those arrested have been interviewed and bailed pending further enquiries.
Detective Superintendent Pat Twiggs, Head of Crime for Leeds District, said: “This investigation has been targeting what is clearly a highly sophisticated car cloning ring that has been operating across the country on a large scale for a number of years.
“Lengthy and painstaking enquiries culminated in the arrest phase of the operation earlier this week, during which we seized a number of vehicles, equipment and other evidence which will be of value to the investigation.
“The operation is focused on vehicles being stolen, primarily in the south of England, without keys using specialist equipment and then transported to Leeds where they are professionally cloned using the identities of legitimate vehicles and sold to innocent buyers through used car publications and websites.
“We believe the value of this criminal enterprise to be in the region of £2 million.
“We have received excellent support and assistance from our colleagues in the National Crime Agency during this investigation and it clearly demonstrates how we can work together effectively to tackle crime that stretches beyond our county borders.”