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A gang of sophisticated metal thieves who “threatened the very infrastructure of the country” by stealing tonnes of telephone cable worth thousands of pounds have been jailed.

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The 10-strong gang, who posed as roadside workmen to carry out thefts, received a total of more than 33 years in prison between them.

Among them was Jamie Summerscales, 40, of Springfield Road, West Ham who was jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.

Their convictions follow a six-month police operation which led to dawn raids and a scrap yard swoop designed to catch the key players red-handed as they exchanged the stolen BT cable for thousands of pounds in cash.

Acting Det Sup Neil Thompson of the Met’s London Crime Squad said: “This was a highly organised criminal network who threatened the very infrastructure of the country, putting the public at risk through their reckless disregard of the communications networks.”

Detectives working alongside BT investigators said the gang would wear high visibility vests and set up cordons and cones when they carried out the thefts between April and early December 2012.

They even used a stolen BT van, seized by police, with a detachable £50,000 winch to retrieve the cable from underground via manhole covers.

BT employee of 30 years Zeki Mehmed, 55, of Mimms Hall Road, Potters Bar, aided the gang by providing them with intelligence tip-offs, enabling them to successfully target specific sites across London and the Home Counties.

Operating at different times of the day and night the gang would take hours to complete a single theft, stealing an average of between one and three tonnes of cable each time.

All ten gang members were sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Friday, November 29, on charges of conspiracy to steal.

They include:

• Simon Read — jailed for four years after pleading guilty

• Ricky Read — jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty

• Kieron Madden — jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty

• Zeki Mehmed — jailed for four years and six months after being found guilty following trial

• John Harding, 52, of Meadow Road, Romford — jailed for five years after being found guilty following trial

• Ryan Wiley, 26, of Ravensbourne Place, Hornchurch — jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty

• Jamie Ratford, 33, of Dunedin House E16 - jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty

• Tommy Taylor, 36, of Meadow Lane, Wickford, Essex — jailed for nine months (suspended for 18 months) and given 220 hours community service after being found guilty following trial

• Simeon Ramsey, 34, of Harlesden Roa, Willesdon — jailed for eight months after pleading guilty

Click below to see a rogue’s gallery of the gang.

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