Expert reprogrammed Mercedes Sprinter vans to help £1m theft spree, court hears

Miroslav Pesko has gone on trial accused of his part in conspiracy to steal Mercedes vans. A Mercede

Miroslav Pesko has gone on trial accused of his part in conspiracy to steal Mercedes vans. A Mercedes Sprinter van, which was stolen from Kirkley in Lowestoft. Picture: Suffolk Police - Credit: Archant

A network of thieves scoured East Anglia to find and steal a host of Mercedes Sprinter vans, netting them well over £1m, a court heard.

The gang broke into the vans at night and stole the electronic ignition switch (EIS), Norwich Crown Court was told.

They then took it to Miroslav Pesko, who had the knowledge and equipment to read the data and reprogramme it - enabling the gang to put the updated switches in the vans and steal them without being tracked.

On Tuesday (October 20), Pesko, 41, from Middlesex, went on trial having denied conspiracy to steal between January 1 2017 and September 6 2019.

Duncan O’Donnell, opening the prosecution case, said Mercedes Sprinter vans had been going missing in large numbers in East Anglia, with police suspecting it was the work of a “sophisticated criminal group”.

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In April 2019 Suffolk Police, along with Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and the Metropolitan Police, launched an operation during which they conducted secret surveillance.

Mr O’Donnell said the investigation discovered “an extensive network of thieves in East Anglia” with the group “scouting for Sprinter vans” before breaking into them.

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The gang broke into the vans in the middle of the night and stole the EIS, which they took to Pesko.

The gang then took the reprogrammed units back to the vans and put them in before taking them to a remote location where it was left for a number of hours in case the vehicle was fitted with a tracker.

They returned several hours later to recover the van and fitted cloned or false number plates before they were stripped down and sold or sold abroad.

Mr O’Donnell said: “This was a lucrative criminal enterprise,” and told the jury Pesko was “a major cog in the wheel of this conspiracy”.

The jury was told others have pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy but Mr O’Donnell said that just because others had admitted their guilt it did not mean Pesko was.

He said the pleas had established there was a “criminal conspiracy to steal Mercedes Sprinter vans”, but added the jury had to decide whether Pesko was part of that.

The trial continues.

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