Three men have been jailed following a burglary which saw a woman threatened with a fake gun and tied to her wardrobe before high value jewellery was stolen.
Abdulatif Nsubuga, 32, Mohammed Raja, 31, and Ravi Handa, 38, have been jailed in connection to the burglary, which involved one of the trio posing as a workman and forcing his way into the home in Newcastle before pointing a fake gun at the 62-year-old householder.
The three men concocted the plan after meeting at a weight loss boot camp.
Nsubuga was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison, Raja to three years and eight months, and Handa to three years and one month.
The court heard how Nsbuga, of Summerwood Road, London, dressed in a hard hat and hi-vis clothing to con the victim.
Nsubuga, who had travelled up from London with Raja, told her there were organised works going on and he needed her signature to do repairs.
It was windy and he tried to convince her to let him in and sign the paperwork on 12 March 2020.
The 32-year-old then forced his way into the home, pulled out a fake gun and put it to her head.
He said he wanted jewellery and money that he knew she had before threatening to kill her and her son.
After Nsubuga searched the house, he left with cash and her sentimental, high-value Indian jewellery.
The court heard the victim was selected because she was Handa's aunt, and her nephew knew she had expensive family jewellery to steal.
Handa, of Abbots Way, North Shields, waited outside of the house with Raja in a BMW. He had previously been part of "research" drives past his aunt's home.
After the burglary, Raja and Nsubuga made their way south but were stopped by police in the Luton area.
They found the stolen goods in the car but the fake gun was never recovered.
The court heard the victim managed to escape the restraints and called both her family and the police.
In a victim statement, the woman said the incident had a "devastating impact" on her life and caused a rift in the once-close family.
She said she also "cries frequently".
Nsubuga and Raja were childhood friends and had met Handa at a weight loss boot camp in Birmingham.
The three men bonded over their serious debts, with all owing thousands of pounds.
Nsubuga was sentenced for aggravated burglary and possession of an imitation firearm, with Raja and Handa being sentenced for burglary on Friday 2 December 2022.
Handa was also made the subject of an indefinite restraining order against the victim and her family.
Tony Davis, mitigating for Handa, said: "He acknowledges he made a monumental error of judgement in dealing with the very deep, personal problems that he had when he was a participant in this offence. His remorse is utter - the rift his actions have caused between close family has been extraordinarily significant to him."
Mr Davis added that Handa had gambling debts and had even resorted to pawning his own jewellery in order to "keep his head above water".
Matthew Bean, mitigating for Raja, said: "He deeply regrets his decision to become involved. He doesn't blame anyone else for that decision, it was his own. He has shame about the affect his actions have had on the victim and it was wholly out of character. He was the bridge between the co-accused and played his part freely."
Nick Cartmell, mitigating for Nsubuga, said: "For a period in 2020 before this offending he found himself in a mental institution having voluntarily sectioned himself. That was the beginning of a spiral of decline from a successful businessman, who fell through addiction to drugs and gambling into homelessness.
"He was released from that institution days before this burglary occurred, he was a vulnerable man but a participant."
Mr Cartmell added that Nsubuga was a "subordinate" and a religious man and that his actions continue to "haunt" him.
Following the hearing, Detective Inspector Tam Fowler, of Northumbria Police, said: "This was a particularly shocking and complex case in which the three defendants have targeted their victim.
"She has shown great bravery in cooperating with us throughout this process.
"Thanks to quick work by our officers we managed to apprehend two of the suspects as they drove home from carrying out the burglary.
"We take every burglary incident extremely seriously as we know the serious emotional impact it can have on victims.
"Our hope is that this outcome provides the victim and her family with a degree of closure."
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