Gallery: Traders caught selling stolen goods in Wisbech by undercover police operation
ILLICIT traders were caught attempting to handle stolen goods by police as part of an undercover sting.
Sisters Emma Codona and Betty Cunningham bought dodgy gear including mobile phones, iPods and a laptop from officers posing as dealers so they could sell them on to unsuspecting customers.
At the same time market seller Lee Martin was offered stolen goods and told disguised officers: “I’ll take half a lorry load of stuff but I don’t want anything from houses or old grannies.”
They were caught red-handed during Operation Bronze but escaped jail after Judge Gareth Hawkesworth berated them for being “prepared to stoop to dishonesty purely to make money”.
“Every time someone steals it costs every single member of the community money,” he said.
“If there weren’t people like you prepared to sell stolen goods, there wouldn’t be a market for those people who steal things in the first place.”
Codona, of Norwich Road, Wisbech, and Cunningham, of Churchfield Way, Wisbech St Mary, were unaware they were dealing with highly trained police officers when they were offered electrical items on September 22 2009.
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Spotting a bargain, 34-year-old Cunningham managed to purchase a Bluetooth headset, iPod, pocket surfer, keyboard and hands-free car kit for �70 – even though they were worth �350.
The officers made several return trips to the Allsorts store in Wisbech to sell similar goods, telling the pair the equipment had been stolen.
They then executed a search warrant at the shop, in Norfolk Street, in February 2010 and seized hundreds of pounds worth of electrical goods.
Officers spent a morning searching through the goods on sale in the shop, seizing items such as X-Box games and PlayStation games. Police packed a Skoda Octavia estate car with seized items.
The siblings snivelled in the dock as Judge Hawkesworth gave 36-year-old Codona a three-month jail term and Cunningham five months imprisonment but suspended the sentences for 18 months.
Cunningham will also have to complete 175 hours unpaid work whereas Codona must do 25 days of a specified activity of employment, education or training.
Martin was said to have a “desire to put money through the till” when officers came to his mobile phone shop in Wisbech with goods purportedly stolen from Argos.
Police, however, carried out a raid at the shop, The Phone Place, simultaneously to the dawn raid carried out at Allsorts.
The 36-year-old’s business, which boomed in the 1990s but fell to its knees when �31,000 commission from Orange and other phone operators failed to materialise, was said to be “flagging” at the time.
Defence barrister James MacWhirter said: “He was presented with an opportunity which regrettably he saw fit to take advantage of.
“His immediate priority is his children and immediate family but he has made some very, very foolish decisions.”
Martin, of Manby Close, Hilgay, Downham Market, who was convicted of handling �191,000 of stolen CDs in 2004, had a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months.
He was also ordered to carry out 175 hours unpaid work and pay �250 costs after Judge Hawkesworth said: “You must pay for the consequences of your actions.”