"His OCG were sophisticated, prolific and causing misery"
The leader of an Organised Crime Group (OCG) has been jailed.
Kashif Rafiq, aged 38, of Blackburn, was jailed for eight years and nine months.
The OCG was responsible for a total of 162 burglary, theft and attempted burglary offences across Cheshire, Merseyside and Lancashire, causing “misery wherever they went”.
Rafiq’s sentencing is part of ‘Operation Castle’.
An investigation was launched in January 2020 following an increase in residential burglaries across the three counties, in which high-performance vehicles with an estimated value of £2.6 million were stolen.
The thefts were keyless entries and wireless key signals were cloned, allowing the criminals to open the vehicles on the driveway.
This meant that the crime group avoided having to break into homes to steal key fobs.
Detective Sergeant Darren Hankin, of Operation Castle, said:
“It is very pleasing to see another man jailed today as part of this complex and successful operation.
“Rafiq led the OCG’s operations, something the courts have reflected in the severity of his sentence today.
“His OCG were sophisticated, prolific and causing misery wherever they went.
“A conspiracy was evidenced in which they organised their burglary of vehicles and their onward distribution via a network of associates.
“Operation Castle is a dedicated team of detectives and we’ve seen more than 500 years in prison handed out to suspects since we launched in 2018, a number which rises each week.
“Every sentence handed down makes the communities of Merseyside and beyond safer from the harm, distress and inconvenience that burglary brings.
“We understand the massive impact that burglary has on victims.
“It can be a really personal and invasive crime and victims can struggle to come to terms with offenders having entered their homes and stolen personal items, which don’t always have huge monetary value, but on a personal level can be irreplaceable.
“Key to these successes can often be information from those communities targeted, so I would continue to ask people to report anything suspicious, and come forward with any information you may have seen or heard.
“Many other burglaries are still preventable as offenders are often opportunistic.”
“Lock your front and back door even when you are in, set your burglar alarm when you go out or go to bed and consider getting CCTV or doorbell technology, both of which can be valuable both as a deterrent measure but also when investigating incidents.”
So far, eight people have been sentenced as part of the investigation.
Rafiq was jailed for eight years and nine months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles.
Rafiq’s sentencing takes the total sentences for the operation to 32 years in prison.
Two more people will be sentenced later in 2021.