Five men from the same Doncaster family have been jailed for a total of 12 years for stealing rail cable so they could strip copper from them in a theft that cost Network Rail more than £1m ($1.4m) to repair.
The gang, which included five men from the Smith family as well as one other man, all pleaded guilty to plotting to steal cable from the railway line across Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Nottingham and Yorkshire on 37 occasions between 1 February to 31 December 2013.
Brian Derrick Smith, 36, of Millfield Lane, Stainforth, Malcolm Isaac, 42, of Thames Road, Grantham, Philip Smith, 25, of New Park Estate, Stainforth, Doncaster, Gordon Geoffrey Smith, 46, of Ramskir View, Doncaster, Charles Aaron Smith, 31, of Toller Court Horbling, Lincolnshire, and Craig Paul Smith, 27, of Holly Street, Lincoln, were handed jail terms of between 12 months and almost three-and-a-half years.
A seventh man, Jaime Beardmore, 23, of Brunswick Street, Thurnscoe, Rotherham, received a 12-month sentence suspended for two years.
During their trial at Lincolnshire Crown Court, it emerged how the men targeted three major rail improvement projects being delivered by Network Rail, and stole signalling cable, which had been installed but not yet commissioned as part of the projects. They then stripped the cabling and sold the copper inside.
The locations they targeted included Oakham, Boston, Ancaster, Sleaford, Digby, Saxondale, Grantham, Spalding, Reepham, Fiskerton, Beckingham, Market Rasen, Gainsborough, Lowdham, Burton Joyce and Nottingham, and Haxey in South Yorkshire and Whitby in North Yorkshire.
The total cost to Network Rail to replace the cabling stolen at each location was valued at £1,054,099. The men were arrested as part of Operation Motion in dawn raids at their home addresses on 19 March 2014 following a covert operation.
The investigation into the gang's activities secured evidence from various sources, linking all seven to each other and to the crimes, and led to the seizure of two of their vans, a quad bike, as well as hydraulic cutting equipment.
Property seized at their homes, including bolt coppers, disk cutters, grinders, hacksaws, cable sheathing and a off-road bike also provided invaluable evidence that, when shown to the group, gave them no option but to plead guilty.
"The gang targeted areas of the rail network which were remote and difficult to access without knowledge," said detective inspector Mick Dawes, who headed up the Operation Motion. "They travelled the country in what was a well-planned and organised operation."