A criminal gang who put high-tech tracking devices on the cars of Chinese business owners in Leeds to target their homes for burglary have been jailed.
The trio were tracked down in a lengthy and complex investigation by detectives from Leeds District Crime Team, with expert support from specialist digital media investigators at West Yorkshire Police’s Digital Intelligence and Investigations Unit.
On 22 December 2020, the owner of a Chinese takeaway left his home in Tingley for about an hour, during which time the property was burgled.
Every room of the house had been ransacked, including the loft, and amounts of cash in sterling, euros, dollars and Chinese currency were stolen.
The victim told the attending officer that two days before the burglary someone had been seen going under their vehicle outside the takeaway business. They had checked at the time but found nothing untoward.
When the officer looked under the car, he found a small black box attached to the car’s rear axle with magnets. Inside the case was a tracking device.
The device and the app used to access it were analysed and further trackers were also identified that had been used to target other victims.
As a result of lengthy and complex technical enquiries, three suspects were identified, and warrants were executed at their addresses in Bradford.
They were Andrew Lister, 26, of Churchfields, Kameron Akram, 22, of Pelham Court, Bradford and Nathan Stapleton, aged 27, of Howarth Avenue.
A further tracker was found at Mr Lister’s address, and another was recovered at Mr Akram’s home, along with drugs and cash.
Through detailed enquiries, detectives identified a conspiracy running from November 2020 to October 2021, involving the targeting of multiple victims.
Those targeted were the owners of Chinese restaurants and takeaways, and it is believed the offenders expected that cash from their businesses would be kept at their homes.
It was believed that once an address was identified from monitoring the movements of the trackers on their cars, other suspects were directed to commit the burglaries.
All three were jointly charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and pleaded guilty when they appeared at Leeds Crown Court in March. Mr Akram also pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis with intent to supply in relation to the drugs found at his address.
They were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Friday.
Mr Stapleton was jailed for seven years, Mr Lister was sentenced to six years and seven months in prison, and Mr Akram received four years and four months in prison.
Detective Inspector Vicky Vessey, who heads Leeds District Crime Team, said: “These offenders were involved in a criminal enterprise that was highly sophisticated and exploited relatively new technology to track their victims.
“While the high-tech tracking devices they used gave them the ability to identify the homes of those they targeted, they were also their downfall.
“Painstaking detective work, supported by the expertise of specialist digital media investigators, was able to build up a clear evidential picture that led us right to their doors.
“We hope their convictions and the sentences they have received will provide some reassurance to the victims and the business community that they targeted.
“We recognise that criminals will exploit every means at their disposal to commit offences, including the use of technology, but this case illustrates how we are staying one step ahead with our own capability to investigate cyber-enabled crimes such as this.”