Fifteen people from across Sussex have been sentenced after plotting to steal more than £2 million worth of goods from Gatwick Airport, police have said.
Officers said a number of workers at the airport stole masses of cigarettes, perfumes, alcohol and electrical goods between January 1 and August 1, 2013.
The items, most of which belong to catering company Gate Gourmet, had a combined value of £2,432,665 and were loaded onto planes, a police spokesman said.
More than 80 officers were involved in a large-scale operation, arresting the 15 individuals in a pre-planned day of action on July 9, 2013.
The arrests were made at addresses across the south east by Sussex, Surrey and Kent police forces.
At Lewes Crown Court on Friday (June 17), the following defendants were jailed for conspiracy to steal and money laundering:
- Keith Gosling, 58, a factory worker, of Ashurst Way, East Preston, was sentenced to 28 months.
- Durrell Corbin, 49, a painter, of Home Close, Brixham, Devon, was sentenced to 36 months.
- Cezary Kosobudski, 52, a factory worker, of Cabourne Road, Grimsby, South Humberside, was sentenced to 28 months.
- William Webber, 61, an assembler, of Salisbury Road, Crawley, was sentenced to 28 months.
- Peter Simmonds, 51, a telecommunications employee, of Montgomery Drive, Bognor Regis, was sentenced to 28 months.
- Pietro Bernone, 29, a driver, of Oakapple Close, Crawley, was sentenced to 32 months.
- Mindaugas Baranauskas, 36, unemployed, of Denchers Plat, Crawley, was sentenced to 43 months.
- George Messenger, 57, an airline employee, of Hobbs Industrial Estate, Lingfield, Surrey, was sentenced to 24 months.
- Alan Hunt, 58, a HGV driver, of Titmus Drive, Crawley, was sentenced to 24 months.
- Christopher Allen, 55, unemployed, of Lansdowne Way, Angmering, was sentenced to 28 months.
- William Ayling, 62, a driver, of Mayo Road, Brighton, was sentenced to 28 months.
- Karamjeet Singh, 54, unemployed, of Richmond Road, Gillingham, Kent, was sentenced to 48 months.
Richard Beaumont, 60, a HGV driver, of Edinburgh Close, Southwater, and Stewart Morris, 54, a driver, of Southwark Close, Crawley, were both convicted of conspiracy to steal but acquitted of money laundering. They were each sentenced to 24 months in prison, suspended for two years, and ordered to carry out 180 hours of community work.
Viktorija Gudonyte, 33, a sales assistant, of Lavington Close, Crawley, was convicted of theft and sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for two years.
The case first came to light in February 2013, police said.
Gate Gourmet was made aware of what appeared to be a large stock discrepancy of dutiable goods at Gatwick Airport.
After an internal investigation identified a large-scale theft by a number of employees, the company approached Sussex Police.
Inspector Andy Richardson said: “This was a well-organised operation on a huge scale in which a number of individuals conspired to steal millions of pounds worth of goods from a catering company. In doing so, they breached the trust of their employer.
“Theft on any level is totally unacceptable. It will not be tolerated and if you are caught, it’s highly likely you will lose your job and you may go to prison.
“The extensive sentences given to those involved in this case demonstrates the seriousness of the offences and I sincerely hope they learn from their mistakes. However, the effects of their sentences are likely to continue long after their release from prison, as these individuals will find it more difficult to find future employment.
“These convictions are the result of an extensive operation and I would like to extend my gratitude to everyone involved in helping to bring these criminals to justice.”
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