Leeds ‘designer’ thieves jailed

Steven Hoang.

Steven Hoang.

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A family of professional shoplifters fleeced designer clothes stores of hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of goods to sell on eBay.

Police discovered an ‘Aladdin’s cave’ of top of the range clothing, perfumes and handbags from stores such as Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton when they raided the home of the Hoang family in Leeds.

Simon Hoang.

Simon Hoang.

A court heard how brothers Steven and Simon made vast amounts of money selling the goods online or returning them to stores for gift vouchers or credit notes.

The pair were trusted customers with many exclusive stores in Leeds and even had their own personal shopper.

The brother’s mother, Thi, 57 – a prolific shoplifter who has 13 different aliases – also took part in the thefts.

Leeds Crown Court yesterday heard it was not known exactly how much the family had profited from their four-year scam, but was thought to be a minimum of £150,000.

Simon taunted a police officer, telling him he had just bought a brand new BMW and made more in a week than he did in a year.

The 22-year-old and Steven, 23, were jailed for three years and Thi for 12 months after they all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property.

A judge told them their offences were done “to adorn themselves in the frippery of material items.”

Jailing them, Judge Geoffrey Marson said: “Day in day out, the courts of this land deal with those who steal from shops.

“Most of those people do it for because they are addicted to drugs and need the money.

“This is not such a case. You three have had all the advantages of life. You participated in this conspiracy for greed.

Ian Brook, prosecuting, said the scam first came light in 2007 when staff at Rice Clothing noticed items stolen from their Leeds store were being sold on the internet.

The eBay account was traced to the Hoang’s home on Hamilton Avenue, Chapeltown, and was searched by police.

Mr Brook said: “They found a veritable Aladdin’s cave of clothing, fragrances and gift vouchers along with a lap top and documentation.”

They discovered items including leather jackets, perfumes, aftershaves, handbags, belts, t-shirts and track suits by many leading fashion labels including Prada, Louis Vuitton, Karen Millen, Vivienne Westwood and Ted Baker.

A manager from the Louis Vuitton said the brothers had previously been good customers at their stores in Leeds and Manchester but were barred after their personal shopper spotted Steven stealing a £305 pair of sunglasses.

Even after their arrest the trio continued to offend and profit from shoplifting up until March last year.

Mr Brook said analysis of their bank accounts showed vast sums of explained cash. Simon, a student, had £36,000 in his account. Steven had £41,000 despite records showing he had only legitimately earned £11,000 over a three year period.

Thi had also had £27,000 in benefits paid into her account.

David Dixon, for Steven, said he had got into debt after mixing with people from rich backgrounds and wanted to maintain the lifestyle he had become used to.

Richard Wright, for Simon, said he was only 16 when the conspiracy began and he had become obsessive.

Kama Melly, for Thi, said she had another son aged just 13 who would suffer if she was sent to prison.

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