1. ITV Report

Million pound car cloning gang sentenced

Freelander 'cloned' to be sold Photo:

Two men at the heart of a million pound car conspiracy have been sentenced.

Ashley Halstead and Timothy Ellor are among 19 people who were involved in an enterprise that sold cars stolen during burglaries, and then made to appear legitimate, to unsuspecting buyers online.

Once they had a stolen car, the group found legitimate registration numbers that belonged to other cars in the same model.

The stolen car was then "cloned" to take on the identity of the legitimate one.

Ashley Halstead Credit: Greater Manchester police

Not only were the number plates changed, but the registration number was also used to help upload an advert onto online market places such as Auto Trader, and was made available to prospective buyers for HPI checks.

Further changes were made to the vehicle identification number to ensure that it would be very difficult for a customer to identify a forgery.

To assist their deception, the group used stolen V5 vehicle registration documents, stolen road tax discs, personal details of innocent people, fraudulent MOT certificates, fabricated receipts of previous sales of the cars and bogus vehicle history check documents; all of which tried to demonstrate a legitimate history of the car.

Freelander 'cloned' to be sold

Two victims were Abbie Jones and her husband Ben East, who had a Land Rover Freelander. Abbie suffers neck and muscle pain and therefore required a car with a high driving position.

During the evening of Wednesday 30 March 2011, offenders broke into their house in Didsbury via the patio door and stole the keys to the car and a laptop and drove off in the Land Rover.

The same car was eventually sold to Mr Adrian Bland, a farmer who, with his family, lives in a remote part of the Cumbrian countryside and therefore required a 4x4 car.

The car was later seized from the Bland family by Cumbria Police, and was identified as stolen from Didsbury.

Police traced more than 60 cars, of a total value of £571,718, that had been stolen and cloned in this way. Of these, 39 had been sold to innocent buyers, who paid a total of £280,000.

Timothy Ellor Credit: Greater Manchester police
False documents Credit: Greater Manchester police

A valuation of all cars involved came £650,000. Combined with the total monetary impact on the victims of the burglaries, the overall value of the conspiracy comes to more than £1 million.

Today, Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Halstead was sentenced to four years in prison, while Ellor was handed 2 years and 4 months.