A crooked garage owner who stripped down cars stolen in burglaries across Leeds has been jailed.
Paul Austwick, 42, of Saxon Road, Leeds, was given a 15-month sentence yesterday (Sept 13) after he was found guilty of 12 counts of handling stolen goods following at trial at Leeds Crown Court earlier this year.
Austwick was arrested in May last year when officers from West Yorkshire Police’s north west Leeds division’s proactive crime team raided Moorland Motors, in Hyde Park, as part of an investigation into an organised gang of burglars.
Officers discovered vehicles and parts stolen in 12 house burglaries at addresses across the Yorkshire region.
The vehicles, which were worth more than £160,000, had been taken to the garage, in Moorland Road, where Austwick dismantled them and sold the parts on the black market.
The search uncovered vehicles in various stages of being dismantled, including a Jaguar, which had been fitted with false numberplates.
Officers also dicvoered the front end of a BMW 120, the registration plate from a stolen Mini One and an intact Suzuki Swift.
Austwick, who has worked in the motor trade for more than 26 years, was also found guilty of acquiring criminal property to the value of £19,262.
Det Insp Jonathan Blackwell, of the proactive crime team, said: “By assisting in the disposal of these cars, Paul Austwick has fuelled the market in stolen goods and provided an easy outlet for burglars to make quick money at the expense of their victims.
“His imprisonment today is the result of a prolonged and complex police investigation into the stolen goods market in Leeds.
“By removing this key link in the chain, we have disrupted the ability of criminal gangs to dispose of stolen motor vehicles and to conceal their crimes.
“It is another significant step in reducing burglary levels in our region.”
Austwick’s conviction for acquiring criminal property under the Proceeds of Crime Act means officers can now begin a case to reclaim any benefit he has made from his criminal activity. He will face another court hearing at a later date.