DIY store raiders put behind bars

B&Q, Marton, Blackpool

B&Q, Marton, Blackpool

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A GANG who netted tens of thousands of pounds by getting refunds on stolen goods at a major DIY chain have been jailed.

Gavin Phillips and Anthony Grainger targeted B&Q stores across the country in a sophisticated scam over five years.

That was until a security guard at the Whitehills B&Q store in Blackpool caught them out and followed the suspects, ending up clinging on to the bonnet of the men’s car which drove at him.

Francis McEntee, prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, said the men would place high value items inside the packaging of a large cheap item inside a store, out of the view of CCTV cameras.

They would leave the store, paying for the cheaper item before returning it to a different branch and exchanging it for a slightly more expensive item, paying the difference by credit card. Another return would then follow, for the full price of an item to be credited.

Phillips, 35, of Westfield Avenue, Liverpool, and Grainger, 34, of Wheathill Road, Liverpool, have both been jailed for three years after admitting conspiracy to steal from B&Q in England, Scotland and Wales between March 2005 and March 2010.

They also admitted a charge of converting criminal property – Phillips to a total of around £100,000 and Grainger £132,800.

Phillips also pleaded guilty to a charge of dangerous driving. He was given an extra four months jail and banned from driving for two years.

A third man, 33-year-old Paul Hughes, of Rampit Close, Haydock, also admitted the conspiracy charge.

He was described as having acted as a “foot soldier” in helping to steal items on four occasions and was given 12 months’ prison, suspended for a year, with 12 months supervision.

The men were caught out after the Blackpool security guard became suspicious on December 3, 2008.

The court heard Grainger got involved due to financial problems and the defence lawyer for Phillips said his arrest had been a wake-up call.

Judge Pamela Badley said: “It was certainly highly planned and organised. It took place over a considerable period of time, the length and breadth of the country.

“It was taking advantage of the excellent consumer policy of a major chain of stores.”