Gang jailed after £300,000 cable theft spree on railways

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A gang of six men who stole more than £300,000 worth of cable from the railway network across West Yorkshire have been jailed.

Albu-Paulo Lazar, 25, Ioan-Marin Lapusan, 23, Gheorghe Pongori, 28, Adrain Pongori, 32, and Cronel Balaiu, 38, all of Field Street, Ravensthorpe, were all sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Monday after previously admitting cable theft and handling stolen goods.

Ioan- Marin Lapusan

Ioan- Marin Lapusan

Irfan Patel, 31, of Clement Terrace, Ravensthorpe, who helped transport the group around the county, will be sentenced next month.

The court heard the men stole cabling from the railways on five different occasions between June and September 2014, which resulted in repair and replacement costs of more than £300,000.

The first theft happened on June 30 last year when 318m of cable was stolen from the Cooper Bridge area causing £35,000 worth of damage.

The gang struck again on August 8 when they caused £44,000 worth of damage near to Batley Railway Station.

Gheorghe Pongori

Gheorghe Pongori

On August 28, 2014, they also stole cable from the railway line near to Lillians Lane in Brighouse. Network Rail was required to pay more than £60,000 to replace and repair the cable. Active signalling cable was also cut resulting into disruption to train services in the area for a short amount of time.

A total of £107,000 worth damage was caused in another incident near to Lowfields Way in Elland last September.

The final incident took place near to Ravensthorpe Railway Station on September 4, 2014 when they stole £49,000 worth of cable.

Detectives at British Transport Police (BTP) went undercover and traced the gang after they saw them stealing cable near Cooper Bridge.

Cornel Balaiu

Cornel Balaiu

Det Insp Glen Alderson, of BTP, said: “This gang were involved in a co-ordinated and premeditated plan to target the railway in West Yorkshire to steal cable.

“Strong forensic analysis, including fingerprints from a number of items, tied all these men to the offences. This, coupled with clear evidence as a result of undercover surveillance and a thorough and detailed investigation, left the group with no option but to plead guilty to this string of offences.

“The group’s actions coast the rail industry more than £300.000 in costs and repairs, which ultimately can be passed on to the fare paying passenger.

“The irony is that it’s unlikely that the cable would have any real value to them or anyone outside the railway industry, as scrap metal dealers are highly unlikely to accept any cable. Yet the cost to the industry to replace the stolen and damaged cable is extremely high.

Adrian Pongori

Adrian Pongori

“Stealing railway cable is also incredibly dangerous and anyone seeking to do so risks serious injury – or even death – through electrocution.

Cornel Balaiu was jailed for 16 months, Adrian Pongori for 27 months, Gheorghe Pongori for two years and Albu Paulo Lazar was given an 18-month sentence suspended for 18 months.

An application has also been submitted for all four men to be deported once their sentences have been served.

Ioan Marin Lapusan received an 18-month community order, curfew tagging for 12 weeks between 9pm and 6am and must complete 150 hours of community work.

Mark Tarry, route managing director at Network Rail, said: “We are pleased with the result and the severity with which the court has treated this matter. Trespassing onto the rail network to steal cable is extremely dangerous for a whole host of reasons and ends up costing the taxpayer huge sums of money to put right, as well as causing immense disruption and frustration for passengers trying to go about their daily lives.

“We are continually developing better ways to protect the network from cable thieves and will continue to work with the British Transport Police to prosecute anyone caught carrying out such a mindless act.”

Albu- Paulo Lazar

Albu- Paulo Lazar