Gang sentenced to total of 72 years in jail after planning to steal artefacts worth millions from museums

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An organised crime gang featuring six Cambridgeshire men, who masterminded a series of raids on museums and auction houses have been sentenced to a total of 72 years in prison.

Between November 2011 and April 2012, Chinese artefacts and rhinoceros horns worth millions of pounds were targeted in six incidents – two thefts and an attempted theft from Durham University Oriental Museum, robberies at Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk and Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex and a burglary at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.

Investigations were launched by local police forces and a number of people convicted for their parts in carrying out the thefts. However, it soon became apparent that an organised crime group was planning and commissioning the jobs.

‘Operation Griffin’, an investigation led jointly by Cambridgeshire and Durham Constabularies, and supported by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC), was launched in June 2012 to bring those behind the conspiracy to justice.

Twelve men, aged between 26 and 68, from Cambridgeshire, London, Southend-on-Sea and Wolverhampton, some with links to Rathkeale in Ireland, were all found guilty following four trials at Birmingham Crown Court. Two others, one aged 28 from Kent, and the other aged 46 from Belfast, pleaded guilty to the charges in March last year and January this year.

All 14 men were charged in connection with all six incidents and were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Monday (April 4) and yesterday (April 5), apart from Robert Gilbert Smith who was sentenced on April 27 last year (2015) following his early guilty plea.

Derbyshire Chief Constable Mick Creedon, the national policing lead for organised crime said: “This complex and lengthy operation resulted from initial work done by the Cambridgeshire and Durham forces who uncovered the offending of a sophisticated criminal network responsible for a series of high value offences across the country.

“These convictions are the result of a nationally co-ordinated investigation involving the National Police Chiefs Council, numerous police forces, the National Crime Agency, HM Revenue and Customs and significant international liaison in Europe and beyond, all coupled with close working with the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecuting counsel.

“Organised crime takes many forms and seeks to exploit any opportunity to harm communities and make criminal profit. This case starkly demonstrates the level of threat, the lengths criminal gangs will go to and the importance of law enforcement agencies sharing intelligence and working together, nationally and internationally.”

Incidents:

1) Durham University Oriental Museum – between November 2011 and February 2012, theft of a rhinoceros libation cup (Durham Constabulary)

2) Durham University Oriental Museum – January 16, 2012, attempted theft of Chinese artefacts (Durham Constabulary)

3) Norwich Castle Museum – February 20, 2012, attempted theft of a rhinoceros horn (Norfolk Constabulary)

4) Gorringes Auction House in East Sussex – March 16, 2012, robbery (Sussex Police)

Durham University Oriental Museum – April 5, 2012, burglary and theft of two Chinese artefacts worth about £2million (Durham Constabulary)

5) Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge – April 13, 2012, burglary and theft of Jade artefacts worth about £15million (Cambridgeshire Constabulary)

Defendants:

Danny Flynn – 45 (29.09.70), Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after a two-and-a-half week trial on July 29 - Sentenced to four years in prison on April 5, 2016

Richard Sheridan – 47 (10.12.68), Water Lane, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after a nine week trial on November 20 - Sentenced to five years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

Daniel ‘Turkey’ O’Brien – 45 (7.8.70), Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after an eight-week trial on February 29 - Sentenced to six years and eight months in prison on April 5, 2016

Michael Hegarty – 43 (24.5.72), Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after an eight-week trial on February 29 - Sentenced to six years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

Richard ‘Kerry’ O’Brien Junior – 31 (18.1.85), Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after an eight-week trial on February 29 - Sentenced to five years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

John ‘Kerry’ O’Brien – 26 (14.7.89), Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire - Found guilty after an eight-week trial on February 29 - Sentenced to six years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

Robert Gilbert Smith – 28 (17.01.1988) HMP Lewis (previously of Hockenden Lane, Kent) - Pleaded guilty on March 20 - Sentenced to 15 months in prison on April 27, 2015

John ‘Cash’ O’Brien – 68 (24.6.47), Fifth Ave, Wolverhampton - Found guilty after a nine week trial on November 20 - Sentenced to five years and three months in prison on April 5, 2016

Paul Pammen – 48 (14.10.66), Alton Gardens, Southend-on-Sea - Found guilty after a nine week trial on November 20 - Sentenced to five years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016 - Alan Clarke – 37 (23.5.78), Melbourne Road, Newham, London - Found guilty after a nine week trial on November 20 - Sentenced to five years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

Patrick Clarke – 34 (21.3.82), Melbourne Road, Newham, London - Found guilty after a nine week trial on November 20 - Sentenced to five years and five months in prison on April 5, 2016

Chi Chong Donald Wong – 56 (3.12.59), Clapham Common South Side, Lambeth, London - Found guilty after a 10 week trial on November 26 - Sentenced to five years and six months in prison on April 5, 2016

Ashley Alan Dad – 35 (4.11.80), Crowther Road, Wolverhampton - Found guilty after a 10 week trial on November 26 - Sentenced to five years and three months in prison on April 5, 2016

Terrence McNamara – 46 (28.12.69), Marquis St, Belfast - Pleaded guilty on January 4 - Sentenced to four years in prison on April 5, 2016