Head of crime gang jailed for conspiracy to steal over 100 Mercedes vans
- Credit: Suffolk Police
The head of an organised crime group including people from Norwich and Lowestoft has been jailed after being found guilty of conspiracy to steal 100 vehicles.
Miroslav Pesko, 41, from Charlton in London, was sentenced to five years and four months after being found guilty of the conspiracy after his trial at Norwich Crown Court.
It followed a complex investigation led by East Suffolk CID officers in 2019 into a number of vehicle thefts across the east of England resulted in six men being arrested and charged with conspiring with one another to steal motor vehicles.
Pesko was arrested along with two other men, Almantas Andriuskevicius and Ignas Bielevicius both 25 and both of London Road South in Lowestoft. All three were arrested in London in September 2019.
The same day Dzanetas Simanskas, 27, of London Road South, Lowestoft, was also arrested after police executed a number of search warrants at premises in the town and Tadas Taraskevicius, 27, of no fixed abode, was arrested in Norwich.
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All five were charged with conspiring with one another to steal motor vehicles between 26 January 26 and September 6 last year.
Andriuskevicius, Bielevicius and Simanskas were also charged with fraudulently using various number plates used on stolen motor vehicles.
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A sixth man who was being investigated in connection with the conspiracy fled to Lithuania from the UK in 2019.
Police made an application for a European Arrest Warrant and after liaising with the Lithuanian authorities, Viktoras Sakalauskas, 26, was arrested. He was returned to the UK and was charged with conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and fraudulent use of vehicle registration plates. Sakalauskas appeared before Norwich Crown Court on October 20 and pleaded guilty to both offences and was remanded into custody to be sentenced at a later date.
Pesko was said to be the head of the organised group, using specialist skills and knowledge to facilitate the thefts of the vehicles.
Andriuskevicius, Sakalauskas, Bielevicius, Simanskas and Tarasekevicius were the offenders going out at night travelling all over the region to steal Mercedes vans.
The prosecution accepted that Taraskevicius was a less significant member of the gang.
The court heard how Andriuskevicius and his co-defendants would drive around looking for suitable vehicles to steal, after breaking into them they would remove the Electronic Ignition Switch and then travel to the home address of Pesko in London. Pesko would recode a new blank key to work in the stolen ignition switch. The thieves then drove back to the vehicle they had removed it from and after fitting the ignition switch back in the van they were then able to drive it away. T
The vehicles were often then stripped of personal belongings which were dumped on the roadside, any vehicle tracking devices were removed and disposed of and the genuine registration plates were replaced with cloned plates.
The vehicles were then driven by the gang to a garage in Essex known as a ‘chop shop’ where they were broken down into parts. The parts were later sold on or shipped abroad.
Simanskas pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and to fraudulently using vehicle registration plates and was jailed for 12 months when he appeared before Norwich Crown Court on May 28.
Andriuskevicius and Ignas Bielevicius both pleaded guilty to the conspiracy and to fraudulently using vehicle registration plates. Bielevicius was sentenced to 18 months. Zuira is due to be sentenced at a later date.
Tadas Taraskevicius pleaded guilty and was imprisoned for a total of 15 months - nine months for the conspiracy offence and six months for unrelated theft and burglaries offences.
Detective Inspector Matt Adams, who led the operation said: “This investigation began in May last year and was initially aimed at targeting the suspected criminal activity of those individuals who lived in Lowestoft.
“The investigation soon grew and we were able to identify other thieves as well as the involvement of Miroslav Pesko based in London.
“The scale of the conspiracy against Pesko was proven to involve the theft of over 100 Mercedes vans from across the east of England. The value placed on the loss of these vehicles is well in excess of £1m, although this does not include the loss of personal property from inside the vehicles or the loss of earnings suffered by many who relied upon their vans to go about their daily business.”