East Ham thief is jailed in huge car-ringing scam

A car thief has been jailed for his role in one of the UK’s biggest ever ringing scams.

Sukvinder Matto, 35, of St Bernard’s Road, East Ham, has been jailed for 16 months.

Mastermind of the operation, Alan Watkins, 42, made �3.5m by placing tracking devices under vehicles so he could choose the time and place when they were driven off.

Using sophisticated programmes, his gang hacked into the car’s onboard computer to make a copy of the electronic key.

False identities were created for scores of vehicles so they could be sold without arousing suspicion.

Watkins took more than 150 vehicles, including BMWs and Range Rovers, and cloned them.

He had details of more than 500 vehicles and had all the required documentation to ring 300-plus luxury cars.

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When police searched Watkins’ home they found pictures of him with bundles of cash.

Jailing him, Judge Anthony Pitts said the thefts were “planned and executed with what in another field might have been termed commendable professionalism and attention to detail”.

The court heard Watkins created ‘ringing packages’ consisting of bundles of documents and identification certificates to make the stolen cars appear to be legitimate.

Prosecutor David Durose said: “Watkins was involved in car-ringing on what can only be termed as an industrial scale over many years.”

Watkins was sentenced to eight years at Southwark Crown Court with Lee Fullick, 51, who helped clone the stolen cars, and Matto.

The court heard that Watkins was caught out after a laptop of his was seized when he was arrested in connection with an aggravated burglary that he was later acquitted of.

When police raided his home they not only found evidence of the car-ringing gang, but a stun gun, pepper spray, CS gas canister, 9mm ammunition and false driving licences.

Fullick and Matto were later linked to the gang through the investigation.

Fullick was given a 12- month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

Matto, a drug addict, was jailed and issued with a warning by Judge Pitts.

He said: “If you go out and fund your drug habit by becoming a thief again, you will inevitably go back into prison, come out and go back into prison and the time periods are only going to get longer.”

Watkins, of Witham, Essex, admitted conspiring to steal, and conspiring to handle stolen goods, as well as possession of the stun gun, pepper spray, CS gas canister, and three counts of possession of a false identity document with intent.

Fullick, of Ingatestone, admitted two counts of conspiring to handle stolen goods. Matto admitted conspiring to steal.

A confiscation hearing in relation to Watkins and Fullick will take place later this year.