Police plea to deport men jailed for 'mindless' gang theft

Police plea to deport men jailed for 'mindless' gang theft

FOUR men from Ravensthorpe who caused more than £300,000 damage to railways have been sentenced.

They were part of a gang which stole cables at locations near Batley, Dewsbury and Mirfield.

Leeds Crown Court heard there were five incidents in three months across West Yorkshire from June to September 2014.

The majority of the cable stolen was new and laid as part of a rail upgrade scheme.

On June 30 last year, 318 metres of cable, which cost £35,000 to replace, was stolen near Cooper Bridge.

Another 150 metres of cable was taken near Batley Railway Station on August 8, leaving rail chiefs with a £44,000 bill.

On September 4, damage costing £49,000 was caused near Ravensthorpe Railway Station when an unknown amount of cable was stolen.

In between there were further thefts near Brighouse and Elland costing £167,000 in repairs.

At Brighouse, active signalling cable was cut, resulting in disruption to train services.

Defendants included Albu-Paulo Lazar, 25, of Sackville Street, Ravensthorpe, and Ioan-Marin Lapusan, 23, of Myrtle Road, Ravensthorpe.

The others are Adrian Pongori, 32, Cornel Balaiu, 38, both of Field Street, Ravensthorpe, and Gheorghe Pongori, 28, of North Road, Dewsbury.

All five were sentenced on Monday after admitting cable theft and handling stolen goods.

Adrian Pongori and Balaiu were jailed for 27 and 18 months respectively, while Gheorghe Pongori received two years.

He admitted one charge of handling stolen goods and one of breaching a suspended sentence.

The court heard Gheorghe Pongori was in the building trade and came to the UK from Romania looking for work.

Lapusan was handed an 18-month community order, a 12-week curfew from 9pm to 6am and must carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

Lazar, who admitted one charge of handling, received 18 months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

A sixth man, Irfan Patel, 31, is due to be sentenced on Wednesday, October 7.

An application was made by the British Transport Police (BTP) to have Balaiu, Lazar and Adrian and Gheorghe Pongori deported at the end of their sentences. A decision will be taken later.

The men were arrested as part of an operation against cable theft by BTP, whose officers swooped on June 30 last year, when the group were seen leaving the Cooper Bridge area in a van.

Lapusan, who was driving, was arrested. Lazar and Adrian and Gheorghe Pongori fled and were chased by police.

Lazar was caught. Adrian and Gheorghe Pongori escaped but were arrested at their home addresses later.

cles led to the discovery of stolen cable and tools and cutting equipment including hacksaws.

Further enquiries into the vehicles led officers to Patel, who was subsequently arrested.

On July 28 last year, police found a site near Low Mill Lane, Ravensthorpe, which was used to strip or burn the casings off the stolen cable.

Three vehicles, all uninsured and suspected of being used by the gang, were seized on September 10.

One of them belonged to Balaiu and contained a sat nav device which placed him at the Elland theft a week earlier.

Det Insp Glen Alderson, of the BTP, said after sentencing that the thefts were co-ordinated and premeditated.

He added: “The group’s actions cost the rail industry more than £300,000 in costs and repairs.

“The irony is that it’s unlikely the cable would have any real value to them or anyone outside the railway industry.

“Stealing railway cable is also incredibly dangerous. Anyone seeking to do so risks serious injury, or even death, through electrocution.”

Mark Tarry, route managing director at Network Rail, branded cable thefts “mindless”.

He said: “Trespassing onto the rail network to steal cable is extremely dangerous for a whole host of reasons.

“It also ends up costing taxpayers huge sums of money to put right, as well as causing immense disruption and frustration for passengers.

“We are continually developing better ways to protect the network from cable thieves.

“We will continue to work with the BTP to prosecute anyone caught carrying out such a mindless act.”

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