A Blackpool-based gang of slot machine bandits hit the jackpot afte using specially adapted keys to raid gambling machines.
Three men –two of them career criminals with more than 100 convictions between them – together with two young women travelled to Burnley, where they targeted machines in a nightclub.
When challenged, the thieves tried to make off in their getaway car which was found to contain a stash of more than £1,120 in £1 coins. Leader Jamie Finney also had £500 cash on him.
Burnley Crown Court was told how “gambling addict” Finney, 28, had broken into a bandit with the keys and then tried to get in another whilst his accomplices Anthony Wainwright, 40, Barry Cantley, 22, part-time shop assistant Danielle Mason and single mum Nicole White, both 20, distracted staff.
The keys were later found to be stuffed down Mason’s leggings in the vehicle, which had convicted robber Wainwright at the wheel.
It was stopped a short distance away, as the defendants had been caught on town centre CCTV.
Father-of-two Finney has now committed 60 offences and Wainwright has more than 40 crimes to his name. Both have long records for stealing from machines and meters and have each served time behind bars.
Jailing the three men, judge Jonathan Gibson told them: “This was organised offending, particularly given your previous convictions.”
The two women walked free from court after the judge said they were on the periphery of what went on.
Finney, of Kilmory Place, North Shore, Wainwright, of no fixed address, Cantley, of Rectory Road, South Shore, White, of Ardmore Road, North Shore, and Mason, of Tyrone Avenue, Bispham, each admitted theft and attempted theft, last November 2.
Finney was jailed for eight months, Wainwright 10 months and Cantley, two months. The two women were each given 12 months conditional discharges.
Prosecutor Stephen Parker said Hot Shots on Hammerton Street, Burnley, was deliberately targeted.
The duty manager saw the five defendants inside the premises playing on bandit machines, Cops and Robbers and Deal or No Deal, upstairs. He watched them for some time on the CCTV and thought they were acting suspiciously around the machines.
The Deal or No Deal machine showed it was getting ready to be emptied or pay out. He asked them what they were doing.
The gang then ran off down Hammerton Street. The duty manager inspected the machines, found they had been tampered with and an engineer confirmed this. Police were called and town centre CCTV operators monitored the five as they made off and got into a car. The defendants were stopped a short distance away by the police, who found a bag containing £1,122 in £1 coins in the vehicle. Finney had £500 on him.
Mr Barker said: “Recovered from the leggings of Mason was a set of three keys, which, in the view of the engineer who inspected the gaming machines, had been adapted to fit these particular machines.
“Keys for them can only be obtained from certain locksmiths.”
He tried the keys recovered from Mason and they fitted both the devices, accessing both where the £1 coins and cash were kept. One of the machines had been emptied of all money, both cash and coins.” The machine owners estimated it was likely to have had between £500 and £600 in it.”
Mr Parker said, when questioned, Wainwright said he had been in Manchester with the others, had a good day, had won about £1,000 and they decided to call in Burnley on the way home. He didn’t accept any wrong-doing on his part and claimed he knew nothing about the keys used on the machines.
Finney told police about £1,000 had been won in Salford. He said he quickly hit the £70 jackpot at Hotshots, then doubled it to £140, the machine didn’t pay out and he switched it off. He claimed he had not tampered with any machine or used the key to try and open them.
Nick Dearing, for Finney, said he recognised he had an addiction to gambling.