An organised criminal group (OCG) which conspired to run a high-value car theft and burglary ring have been jailed following an investigation by our East Exploitation Team.
The OCG stole high-value cars from across East Lancashire and Greater Manchester and then either put false number plates on them and used them to commit further burglaries or stripped them down for parts.
Before we unravelled and disbanded their criminal conspiracy, the OCG stole cars, jewellery and handbags worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
On September 10, 2021, a Land Rover was stolen from Bury Market while the victim was taking her disabled parents out shopping. That vehicle was later found to be being driven by the partner of defendant Zach Sanderson (pictured bottom left) with false number registration plates on when he was arrested in April 2022.
On January 15, 2022, a Mercedes was stolen during a burglary in Kirkhill Avenue, Haslingden. The Mercedes later crashed into another vehicle. Enquiries found that defendant John Fennell (pictured on the right right) was in the area of the burglary and subsequent crash at the time.
On January 17, 2022, a white Audi A4 , valued at £14,000, was stolen from an address in Bentham Close, Blackburn, and used five days later during a burglary in Colne. The Audi was found dumped a short time later, baring false registration plates. Sanderson’s fingerprints were later found on the registration plates.
Also on January 17, a Mercedes was stolen from Bolton. Enquiries revealed that Fennell was in the area at the time.
Six days later another Mercedes, valued at 21,000, was stolen in Stockport, with enquiries again revealing that Fennell was in the area at the time.
On January 28, 2022, at a time when Fennell and Sanderson were in the village, a Land Rover, a Range Rover, jewellery and cash were taken during a burglary at a property in Hawkshaw. The vehicles were later left in Blackburn. The vehicles were valued at £58,500, with the other property taken valued at £30,570. Enquiries revealed Fennell and Sanderson were in the area at that same time. Sanderson later called for a taxi to Farnworth – an area which defendant Mikey Baker (pictured top left) has links to.
The Range Rover was recovered and returned to its owner, with the Land Rover recovered in Burnley the following day after being used in an attempted burglary in Colne.
On February 8, 2022, £76,000 of property was stolen during a burglary in Read. Enquiries revealed that Fennell was in the area at the time.
On February 11, 2022, a Seat was stolen during a burglary in Whalley Old Road, Blackburn, when Sanderson and Fennell were in the area. Neighbours reported the burglary and our officers pursued the Seat which was being driven in convoy with an Audi A3 linked to Sanderson.
Fennell attempted to hide outside a petrol station in Blackburn Road, Haslingden, and told a delivery driver he was being sought by the police helicopter and asked for a lift. The driver alerted our officers, who quickly arrested Fennell.
The following day, the Mercedes stolen from Bolton on January 17, was found in Plant Street, Oswaldtwistle – close to a property linked to Sanderson. The vehicle had false registration plates and inside our officers found jewellery and a purse stolen during the burglary in Hawkshaw on January 28, and handbags stolen during the burglary in Read on February 8.
On February 28, 2022, a BMW, a quad bike and other property was stolen from a property in Wilpshire. The total value of property taken was £132,000. Enquiries revealed that Fennell was in the area at the time.
Overnight on March 13 there were a series of burglaries across East Lancashire committed by Sanderson and Fennell.
On April 7, 2022, Sanderson and Fennell are caught on CCTV stealing a vehicle in Bolton. It was subsequently discovered that Clegg as in contact the following morning about the stolen vehicle, with a taxi from Blackburn to Clegg’s unit in Whalley.
On April 9, 2022, a BMW was stolen during a burglary in Blackburn.
At 12.45am on April 11, 2022, a Range Rover, valued at £27,000, designer handbags and jewellery were stolen during a burglary in Hapton.
Around 2am the same day another burglary was committed in Whalley, during which a Mercedes motorbike, valued at £30,995, and expensive watches were taken. The total value of property taken was £490,065.
At around 3am our officers were called to Enterprise Vehicle Hire in Accrington after three men on CCTV were captured inside the compound trying to steal items from one of their vehicles. When our officers arrived, Baker was found hiding under one of the vehicles, Fennell escaped, and a balaclava-clad Sanderson was detained jumping over a fence.
A police dog located where Sanderson had been and found a car key to a Mercedes nearby. That Mercedes had false registration plates and had been stolen from Stockport on January 23. A balaclava inside the car contained Sanderson’s and Fennell’s DNA, as well as items taken from the burglaries in Whalley and Hapton earlier that day. We also found more false number plates inside.
When Sanderson was arrested and our officers searched properties linked to him, we found fake Rolex watches, a large number of trainers and receipts for high value items. One pair of them trainers was forensically linked to a burglary in Pleasington Road, Blackburn, committed on February 11, 2022.
Our efforts to find the Mercedes stolen in Whalley on April 11 continued and it was later tracked to Clegg’s unit. He was arrested after refusing officers entry, but once inside we found the stolen stripped down Mercedes and parts, as well as parts from the BMW stolen in Blackburn on April 9 and a Fiat van. The value of those vehicles was £77,995.
While searching Clegg’s home, our officers found a registration plate press and a large amount of blank registration plates.
The defendants were charged, convicted and sentenced to the following at Preston Crown Court today (September 8):
- Zach Sanderson - 01/09/1999 – of Alliance Street, Accrington. Convicted of conspiring to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles. Jailed for four years and three months.
- John Fennell - 01/09/1994 – of no fixed address. Convicted of conspiring to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles. Jailed for five years and 10 months.
- Anthony Clegg - 26/09/1988 – of Edgeside, Great Harwood. Convicted of conspiring to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles. Sentenced to 16 months custody suspended for 18 months.
- Mikey Baker - 17/01/2004 – of Wordsworth Road, Swinton. Convicted of conspiring to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles. Jailed for two years and 10 months.
DS Stu Peall, of the East Exploitation Team, said: “These defendants all played their individual key roles in what was a well-oiled criminal conspiracy, spreading misery through East Lancashire and Greater Manchester via their despicable and invasive crimes.
“A lot of work has gone in to unravelling this criminal conspiracy, putting its members before the courts and protecting the public from their persistent offending. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the officers and police staff who played their part in compiling the overwhelming evidence against these individuals.
“East Lancashire is not a safe haven for OCGs to operate in. We will identify you, we will take apart your operation and we will put you before the courts.”
The investigation was part of Operation Defender - funded by Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Andrew Snowden - which is our approach to robustly and pro-actively tackling burglary.
Mr Snowden said: "This is a fantastic result and credit to the hard work and dedication of the Constabulary's officers.
"Disrupting and dismantling organised crime and cracking down on burglary and robbery are key priorities in my Fighting Crime Plan for Lancashire and the Constabulary continues to deliver against those through targeted operations like Op Warrior and Op Defender, taking the fight to criminals and making sure they have their day in court.
"Organised crime gangs are a blight on society and I would encourage anyone who has any information to come forward and report it to the police or anonymously to independent charity Crimestoppers.”