Thugs used tracking devices to burgle Chinese restaurant owners' homes across West Yorkshire

Three men involved in a year long spree of burglaries of Chinese restaurant owners across West Yorkshire have been given combined prison sentences of almost 18 years in jail.

By Richard Beecham
Saturday, 18th June 2022, 4:45 am
Andrew Lister, Nathan Stapelton and Kameron Akram were all given lengthy prison sentences.
Andrew Lister, Nathan Stapelton and Kameron Akram were all given lengthy prison sentences.

A sentencing hearing at Leeds Crown Court this week heard how Andrew Lister, 26, of Churchfields, Bradford; Kameron Akram, 22, of Pelham Court; and Nathan Stapleton, 27, of Howarth Avenue, located the homes of the businesspeople by placing tracking devices on their cars.

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Seven burglaries resulted, with one botched job resulting in three children being threatened with a knife.

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A sentencing hearing at Leeds Crown Court heard how the devices would be placed on the vehicles of employees or owners of takeaways while they were working, before the defendants would log into a mobile phone application to track which address they returned to on an evening.

On May 28, five men struck a house in Mayfield Avenue, Wyke, where the parent was out, but three children aged 13, 12 and 10 were at home. Having entered through an open window, one of the men picked up a knife and demanded money from one of the children - they were given £20 before escaping.

On March 24, a family in Park Avenue Bingley were watching television when the daughter said she had seen a man outside the house. The family locked the doors and the son called the police. The mother opened the curtains of the patio door to find two men standing on the other side of the glass. The court heard the men were "surprised" to see the house was occupied and ran away.

The first event had taken place in a house in Longwood Fold Tingley, when the owner of a Chinese takeaway returned home to find his house ransacked. A safe containing his passport and immigration papers had been taken, along with £1,200 in cash. The safe and papers were later recovered.

When a police 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.

On February 26 in Winchester Gardens, Bradford, the employee of a restaurant was called to say her house had been burgled. She returned home to find jewellery and £1,000 in her wages, which she had intended to bank - had been stolen.

The court heard that CCTV evidence showed similar events took place on March 3 and March 5 in houses in Belvedere Avenue, Bradford, and Marcus Avenue, Bradford respectively.

The final offence took place at a house in Stainburn Gardens in Moor Allerton, where car keys for a Range Rover and a BMW were taken.

After getting warrants to search the houses of the three defendants, police found evidence on their mobile phones that they had been involved.

A further tracker was found at Lister’s address, and another was recovered at Akram’s home, along with drugs and cash.

Detectives identified a conspiracy running from November 2020 to October 2021, involving the targeting of multiple victims. A further 20 vehicles had been tracked using the devices.

Mitigating for Stapleton, Stephen Uttley told the court: "He is a very stupid young man.

"His partner is expecting their first child and, after his last custodial sentence, he was turning his life around."

Mitigating for Lister, Roy Headlam told the court: "He is 26 years old and has never served a custodial sentence before. This will have a substantial effect on his future and, while he appreciates he has nobody to blame but himself, he is determined to turn his life around."

Sentencing the trio, Judge Rodney Jameson said: "The victims were selected because of their employment and as is well known in the courts, there is a belief that people in that trade keep quantities of cash and gold in their homes.

"It is my clear view that each of you were an integral and essential part of the conspiracy. Whether you were the originators is of no relevance - what you did allowed the burglaries to take place.

"You are not proved to be involved in a burglaries themselves - it's of limited relevance as you know they were to be committed."

Referring to the Wyke burglary, he added: "Three children were threatened with a knife.

"It was a consequence of the conspiracy that you were a part of."

He sentenced Stapleton to seven years imprisonment, Lister to six years and seven months imprisonment and Akram to four years and four months imprisonment.

Following the sentencing, 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-dependent crimes such as this.”