Two men have been found guilty of conspiring to steal more than £600,000 of high-tech BMW car components.
Vitalijus Belovas, aged 41, of no fixed address, and Vitalijus Bakutis, aged 39, of Scholars Court, Northampton, were convicted at Northampton Crown Court on Thursday, May 16.
Their trial heard how in April 2018, Northamptonshire Police was alerted to a suspicious vehicle linked to a series of thefts in the Kent area, which was then traced to Northampton town centre.
Work began to identify those using the vehicle, and in the early hours of May 3, 2018, police officers from the East Midlands Operational Support Service stopped it on the A43 with Belovas, Bakutis and a third man, Ramunas Radzevicius, aged 26, inside.
Officers also found the steering wheels, dashboards and iDrive in-car control systems from two BMWs in the vehicle. These parts were later identified as having been stolen from cars in Barton Seagrave earlier that same night.
Following further investigations which revealed similar offences in Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire, and DNA evidence linking Radzevicius to a number of offences in Kent, all three were charged with conspiracy to steal.
The charges covered a total of 49 offences, 19 in Northamptonshire, one in Lincolnshire and 29 in Kent, committed over 10 nights and 15 nights respectively, with the value of the stolen parts set at more than £600,000.
Detective Inspector James Larkin, of Northampton CID, led the Northamptonshire Police investigation into the trio’s crimes across the country and attended the trial of Belovas and Bakutis.
Speaking after the guilty verdicts, he said: “This was a very sophisticated gang that used a number of techniques to break into people’s cars without being disturbed or detected, enabling them to take their time in dismantling vital high-tech components from within these vehicles.
“As a result of their actions, some of these cars had to be written off, with the damage caused to others costing many thousands of pounds to repair, all of which caused considerable distress and frustration to their owners.
“The investigation into their activities has been comprehensive and extremely complex, and I’m ecstatic at this result which is testament to the hard work and dedication of our officers.”
Belovas was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to steal. He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing false identity documents – a false passport and a false driving licence.
Bakutis was found guilty of one offence of conspiracy to steal. Prior to the trial he had pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing false identity documents – a false driving licence and a false Lithuanian identity card.
Radzevicius, formerly of St Andrew’s Street, Northampton, had pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to steal at a hearing on February 19 this year.
All three are due to appear before Northampton Crown Court for sentencing on Thursday, May 23.