Two men have been jailed at Lincoln Crown Court for a series of high-value car thefts that took place across four counties.
Andrius Jonaitis, a 33-year-old Lithuanian national who lived in Harlaxton, Grantham, was jailed for four years and six months after admitting eight offences of motor theft.
Modestas Gruzdziunas, 31, who was also from Lithuania and lived in Harlaxton, was handed a 12-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to two offences of attempted theft.
In an investigation that spanned Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Cambridgeshire, officers in Lincolnshire took the lead investigating role after the men were arrested in the county.
Using expert analysis, it was discovered that Jonaitis and Gruzdziunas had been stealing high-value vehicles by smashing their way into them and using the On-Board Diagnostics (OBD) to clone keys and drive them away within a matter of minutes.
In total, 10 4x4 vehicles were included in the conspiracy, all stolen without the original keys.
A device had been bought specifically to create duplicate copies of keys of a specific high-value vehicle with the intention of stealing it. The device was found at the home address of Jonaitis, along with two blank Range Rover keys.
The value of the stolen vehicles to buy new would be in the region of £600,000, while their second-hand value would be around £300,000.
DC Richard Nethercott, of Grantham CID, said the sentences handed out to Jonaitis and Gruzdziunas reflected the seriousness of the crimes. He said: “The fact that the judge in this case has seen fit to remove these two men from the streets for such a lengthy period of time accurately reflects the gravity of their offending.
“For the victims, these crimes have caused them distress, a lot of inconvenience, and a lot of time putting things in order after their vehicles were targeted.
“Jonaitis and Gruzdziunas were involved in this complex, organised, and very technical conspiracy to steal high-value cars where the vehicles and victims were specifically targeted. For that reason, these two men very much deserve the prison sentences they have been handed.
“Lincolnshire Police carried out an in-depth investigation that spanned not just our own county but that of our neighbouring forces as well. By working with experts and colleagues in other forces and securing convictions in this case we hope that a very strong and clear message is sent to other criminals involved in this type of crime – that they will be identified and they will be brought to justice.”
The investigation began on November 29 last year after a Range Rover Vogue TDV8 was discovered in the car park of The Premier Inn in Grantham.
The vehicle was parked securely in the middle of the car park, but displayed different registration details on the number plate and tax disc. It was soon identified as a vehicle that had been stolen from Lowdham in Nottinghamshire and was subsequently recovered by police.
Two days later a Land Rover Range Rover Sport was stolen from New Street, Sleaford. The owner had both sets of keys at his home address, and there was glass on the floor where the vehicle was parked.
Officers soon established that the previous owner had installed a tracker to the vehicle and police re-activated the unit, and within 15 minutes found it had been activated on the A46 in Lincoln.
At around 8pm that night a Mazda 6 arrived at the stolen Range Rover and two men got out and one walked towards it. He was immediately recognised as Jonaitis. As he walked towards the stolen car he was looking around, and appeared to be making sure nobody was watching him. He walked alongside the driver’s side of the vehicle towards the driver’s door.
The other man, who had now got back in the Mazda, was sat in the driver’s seat of the Mazda with the engine running and the lights on as if the car was going to leave.
Officers approached Jonaitis and he tried to escape on foot, but after only a couple of minutes he was caught and arrested on suspicion of theft of a motor vehicle. Gruzdziunas was also arrested at the scene.
After that, the investigation subsequently progressed quickly and other offences were identified:
Overnight on October 28-29, 2013, a Range Rover Vogue was stolen from a home address in Wyberton, Lincolnshire.
Overnight on November 3-4, 2013, a Range Rover Evoque was stolen from Saltby, near Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire.
Overnight on November 5-6, 2013, a Land Rover Discovery was stolen from Eye, near Peterborough, Cambs.
Overnight on November 24-25, 2013, a Range Rover was discovered by the owner as having the Sunroof smashed. The vehicle was parked on his private driveway in Stanton on the Wolds, Nottinghamshire. At around 4am he had been woken by the sound of his car alarm, he got up, looked around and didn’t see anything suspicious and went back to bed. It was only later in the morning when it was daylight did he discover the Sunroof smashed, he also saw a footprint on the driver’s seat, and a partial shoe print on the centre console, it was then he realised somebody had climbed inside his vehicle, which probably set his alarm off.
Overnight on November 30-December 1 a Range Rover Sport was stolen from Lowdham, Notts.
In relation to the vehicle at the Premier Inn in Grantham – the owner was contacted and it was discovered that offenders entered the vehicle via the sunroof.