Birmingham chop shop gang jailed
Members of a Birmingham gang have been jailed for running one of the country's biggest car 'chop shop' rackets − after West Midlands Police linked them to more than 100 stolen vehicles valued at well over £1 million.
Mohammed Nadeem, Nadeem Arshad, Zahir Hussain and Amaan Zameer snapped up damaged vehicles from salvage auctions rated repairable write-offs and fixed them using parts stripped from stolen cars.
The stolen vehicles − taken during burglaries and violent carjackings − were dismantled at so-called chop shops in Birmingham before being sold buyers on online sales sites.
They were put back on the roads without any mechanical or safety checks and police found one VW Golf − sold to a man for just over £10,000 − had been re-fitted with airbags taken from a stolen car. A West Midlands Police specialist vehicle examiner concluded they would likely have failed to deploy in the event of a collision.
Detectives linked the group to 117 stolen cars, mainly taken from the West Midlands but also Liverpool, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Yorkshire. However, it's believed the group harvested parts and body panels from hundreds more stolen vehicles.
West Midlands Police exposed the extent of the group's criminal enterprise after a £70,000 Mercedes SL400 stolen from Aylesbury Road, Solihull on 1 May 2017 was traced to a garage in Digbeth's Charles Henry Street.
The car − taken by thieves when the driver got out to knock on a friend's door − was found inside on false plates and surrounded by a stash of car parts, body panels and number plates from 21 stolen cars.
The raid led officers to another chop shop in nearby Cheapside − where 24 stolen cars had been dismantled − and to the homes of Nadeem in Glovers Road and Arshad in Eastlands Road, where more car parts and vehicle documents were seized.
Detectives discovered stolen parts were being sold by the men through two eBay accounts − BritishGermanCarSpares and car_parts_2010 − which had shipping addresses linked to Nadeem and co-conspirator Arshad.
West Midlands Police found another of their shops in Grove Road, Sparkhill, after a BMW stolen from a garage forecourt in Derby was tracked to a business unit.
A Proceeds of Crime hearing in April will decide how much money the gang needs to repay.
Hussain (31), Nadeem (28) and 30-year-old Zameer were arrested − Nadeem after a foot chase, while Zameer was trapped down the side of a van by two neighbourhood cops who discovered the site − and parts to eight more cars uncovered inside. Bodycam footage released today shows how a PC was pushed up against a wall by Zameer when he was trying to evade arrest.
And on 28 March 2018 a further warrant saw officers search 250 shipping containers at a storage facility in Curzon Street. Almost 30 were found to contain parts cut from stolen cars with one − number 118 rented to Arshad − hiding eight engines and gearboxes.
Nadeem and Hussain − from Finch Road, Lozells − and 30-year-old Zameer from Gladstone Road, Sparkbrook, all admitted conspiring to handle stolen vehicles.
Arshad (42) and Spence initially denied involvement but on day one of their trial at Birmingham Crown Court entered guilty pleas.
Arshad was sentenced to seven years, Nadeem to six years, Zameer was given five years and three months and Hussain received four-and-a-half years in prison. Zameer was also given three months for assault with intent to resist arrest, to be served consecutively.
Spence, aged 34, admitted a lesser count of possessing an article in the use of fraud and received a suspended nine months sentence and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work.
West Midlands Police Detective Inspector Hannah Whitehouse, said: "This group was handling stolen cars on a huge scale... bigger than anything we've ever seen in the West Midlands. We believe hundreds of stolen vehicles have passed through their chop shops.
"It's unclear who was stealing the cars for them but our belief is the gang was ordering stolen cars to match those they'd bought at salvage auctions.
"We know they bought around 300 salvage vehicles since 2015 from one major dealer alone − and we seized evidence showing they'd advertised 350 vehicles for sale on Gumtree and Autotrader with a combined value of £900,000.
"This group may not have been stealing cars but they were providing a very active market for car thieves and causing lots of pain and distress to motorists."
West Midlands Police is pushing for improved regulation that will make it harder for criminals to buy salvage vehicles and put them back on the roads after being fixed with spares stripped from stolen cars.
West Midlands Police Deputy Chief Constable Louisa Rolfe previously said: "We've witnessed a near 100 per cent increase in vehicle thefts across the West Midlands in the last four years − and there's a correlation between the types of cars being stolen and those available as repairable write-offs. It is our firm belief, supported by police intelligence, that this increase is being driven by the criminal demand for car parts.
"We have raised our concerns with government − one of our senior officers sits on a Home Office steering group on the topic − the Association of British Insurers and online auction and sales sites.
"And we've had some success: one major salvage auctioneer has banned cash purchases from buyers which improves the audit trail, while more online sales sites are insisting that car part sellers must be licensed breakers.
"But a review and improved regulation on the re-sale of insurance write-offs is needed. We'll be asking how so many badly damaged cars should be offered as repairable write-offs and we also want repaired write-offs to undergo safety checks before they're returned to the road."
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, David Jamieson added: "This is an excellent result for every single road user. This gang of organised criminals has put the lives at risk by putting dangerous vehicles back on the road with no safety checks whatsoever.
"This is why I have been calling on government to make a number of changes which will seriously disrupt the way in which organised car thieves conduct their illicit activities. It is common sense that any vehicle which is written off should have its MOT cancelled immediately and require a full safety inspection before it is readmitted to our roads.
"I have also been calling for tighter regulation around the availability of tools which are being used by thieves to steal vehicles, ensuring that they can only be purchased by those with a legitimate need to own them, such as mechanics and auto-locksmiths.
"This result is testament to the excellent work of our police officers in clamping down on chop shops and the organised criminals running them."
Source: West Midlands Police