Man jailed for car theft scam

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A man has been sentenced to 16 months in prison at Luton Crown Court – the last of twelve caught in a police operation going back six years.

Bartosz Dolata, 29, a Polish national, had been moving stolen vehicles across to Poland as part of an organised crime unit stealing high value cars across three counties.

He had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to transferring criminal property under the Proceeds of Crime Act and was sentenced on Thursday.

Operation Pleat was set up as a joint initiative between the Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Northamptonshire forces following burglaries across South and Mid Bedfordshire and central and western Hertfordshire. The series under investigation related to property worth more than £1.5 million.

It first hit the headlines in January 2009 when more than 100 officers from all three forces descended on addresses in the Luton, Wellingborough and Northampton areas where they arrested 11 men and women and recovered a substantial quantity of suspected stolen property.The organised crime group concentrated on breaking into houses while the owners were asleep and stealing the high value cars parked outside by just taking the keys and driving away. BMWs and Mercedes were among the most popular brands stolen and believed to have been exported for sale in Poland.

Eleven other people were eventually jailed for their part in the conspiracy and Dolata was the last outstanding offender. Bedfordshire detectives used a European Arrest Warrant to alert other countries to his crimes, and eventually he was caught in Germany in February this year – nearly five years after the warrant was first issued.