A SOUTH Tyneside man has narrowly avoided jail for his part in a £1m theft scam from car giant Nissan.
Trusted workers at the car manufacturing plant smuggled out high-value car components which ended up for sale at a fraction of their true cost on internet auction site eBay.
Bosses at the factory had tipped-off the police after 235 satellite navigation systems, worth a total of £615,000, had gone missing over a three-month period at the end of 2011.
A further pallet of satnavs, worth a total of £251,000, was taken from the plant in February 2012.
Newcastle Crown Court heard it has not been possible to put an exact figure on what was stolen or how many people were involved in the scam.
One of those involved in the racket was Gavin Wright, 28, of Monkton Avenue, South Shields, who was one of nine men from across the North East who were sentenced yesterday.
Wright, an agency driver for Nissan, admitted stealing SIM cards from newly manufactured vehicles.
He was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work after admitting theft.
When police launched an undercover investigation, codenamed Operation Broadway, officers were led to Anthony and Stephen Ganley at Tony’s Car Radios in Sunderland.
Newcastle Crown Court heard Anthony Ganley, 49, who owns the firm, and his son Stephen, 31, both of Padgate Road, Sunderland, had been selling stolen satellite navigation systems through the shop and over eBay.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday, Judge Jeremy Freedman put them, and two other men involved in the conspiracy, behind bars.
Judge Freedman said: “The items were stolen and in the main passed onto Anthony and Stephen Ganley, who in turn sold them either on e-Bay accounts or from the car radio shop.
“I regard this as a well-planned, orchestrated and executed conspiracy.
“At its heart are the two Ganleys, being recipients of the goods.”
Wright, who was tasked to load newly build Nissan motors onto container ships at the Port of Tyne, stole SIM cards from newly manufactured vehicles to supply to the Ganleys so the stolen satnavs would work.
Ganley snr was jailed for three years after he admitted conspiracy to steal and conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
Former Nissan worker Ganley jnr, who admitted the same charges, was jailed for five years.
The court heard he “turned a blind eye” to where the stolen stock was coming from.
Van driver Kris Beckwith, 36, of Newbury Street, Monkwearmouth, whose work allowed him inside the Nissan compound, was yesterday jailed for three years and four months.
He had admitted conspiracy to steal on the basis he was the “go-between” for the Ganleys and those getting the stolen goods out of the factory.
Driver David Evans, 32, of Cartwright Road, Castletown, who was involved in the theft of a pallet of 96 satnavs through his work in the compound for a delivery firm, worth £251,000, was jailed for 18 months.
Ganley family friend Neil Crossan, 47, Stathmore Road, Springwell, was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
He had admitted conspiracy to handle stolen goods in relation to selling six sat navs and 36 USB cables which were stolen from the plant.
Paul Burrell, 42, of Front Road, Ford Estate, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
He had admitted conspiracy to handle stolen goods in relation to eBay sales.
David Whitfield, 38, Silksworth Row, Sunderland, was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
He had admitted conspiracy to steal after being involved in transporting the stolen pallet of 96 satnavs.
Lee Myers, 34, Coronation Avenue, Blackhall, Durham, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, suspended for two years, with 200 hours unpaid work.
He had admitted handling stolen goods after being caught selling stolen satnavs over eBay.