Great Harwood scrapyard boss, Tommy Smith, back in court

MEMBERS of an organised crime group headed by a scrapyard boss have appeared in court to be sentenced for their roles in a GBP1million stolen goods operation. Tommy Smith and his wife Mary appeared at Preston Crown Court on Tuesday after pleading guilty to several counts relating to theft and money laundering. The charges were brought against the pair as a result of three ‘long and complex’ police operations named Hewton, Runback and Redmill, carried out by police between 2016 and 2018.

Prosecuting, Mark Monaghan said the case primarily concerned stolen goods in the form of motor cars and machinery that went through the hands of Tommy Smith and, to a lesser degree, his wife, their associates and employees. He said: “The first police operation (Hewton) centred around the search of the TH Smith & Sons scrapyard in Great Harwood in January 2016 and the discovery of parts from 54 separate stolen cars, vans and other machinery. “The second operation (Runback) relates to a large amount of stolen plant and machinery that was put through online auctions and bought by innocent purchasers via a company called GHM Ltd.

“The third part relates to a series of thefts and handling between late 2017 and June 2018.” During the first operation police conducted a three-day search of the scrapyard run by the couple – where they also live. The investigation revealed parts and engines belonging to 54 separate stolen cars within the premises, as well as a fork life truck, a caravan, two quad bikes and thousands of pounds worth of stolen gardening equipment.

Officers then recovered a large number of invoices for the sale of car parts by a company called A&L Breakers Ltd. The prosecution said this was one of the many companies set up by the Smiths between 2009 and 2017 through which they would sell the stolen goods. The prosecution also added that two truckloads of car parts headed for Europe were stopped at Dover and traced back to TH Smith scrapyard.

The second operation, Runback, involved a third defendant, Scott Paton. Mr Monaghan said: “This operation dealt with the handling of large amounts of plant and machinery that was disposed of through online auctions. “The crown’s case centred on 26 separate items that were bought by 17 different purchasers in online auctions between November 2016 and January 2017.

They were all stolen.” The stolen items were then issued with fake serial numbers so buyers were unable to ascertain what was going on. The court also heard about times when the Smiths would sell a stolen item to customer, steal it back from them, and then list it for auction again.

Mr Monaghan added: “This was a very well thought out and planned enterprise.” Operation Redmill identified seven defendants – including the Smiths – and discovered how an operation to obtain and dismantle stolen vehicles was still ongoing despite the previous two police investigations. Only now, Mr Monaghan explained, the dismantling was being carried out away from the TH Smith Scrapyard – instead at the address of a co-defendant at St Lawrence Mill in Great Harwood.

The court also heard how the a new company, ‘Great Harwood Skip Hire’, had been created as a legitimate front for more criminality involving the theft skips belonging to other firms, stripping them and repainting them to pass them off as their own. Alongside other things, the group were also responsible for stealing GBP125,000 of aluminium trakway. Concluding the opening, Mr Monaghan said Tommy Smith played the ‘leading role’ in a number of ‘sophisticated’ operations.

Appearing with Tommy and Mary in the dock were Steven Harwood of Lord Street, Rishton and Scott Paton of Burnley Road, Brierfield, who both previously pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering. Keiron Savage of Garden Street, Great Harwood has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to handle stolen goods and Anthony Miller of Bostons, Great Harwood, was found guilty after trial of conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Leonard Perkins, formerly of Bridgefield Close, Rishton, is set to be sentenced for handling stolen goods and theft, and appeared over video link from Preston Prison.

All seven defendants will be sentenced today.

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