Revealed: Islington moped gang’s phone thefts trail that leads to Asia
Police investigation finds organised criminal network behind series of shocking raids on Three Mobile stores
25 August, 2017 — By Koos Couvée
Brothers Bobby and Alfie Kennedy are facing jail for their part in the raids
A POLICE investigation has revealed a criminal network involving an Islington moped gang who stole mobile phones in a series of shocking smash-and-grab robberies before the devices were shipped out to Asia.
The gang carried out burglaries at 17 Three Mobile shops across London between May and November last year. They sold the phones on to owners of phone shops, taxi companies and supermarkets in east London, who would pay up to £300 per phone, a Met detective has told the Tribune.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 phones were shipped out of the country this way. Most of them went to Pakistan and Bangladesh, where they were sold just under market value. The value of the haul of tablets and phones, and the damage caused to the shops, is thought to exceed £1million.
On Monday, at Blackfriars Crown Court, Bobby Kennedy, 22, of no fixed abode but from Islington, and Chris Costi, 19, from Clapton, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary.
Kennedy’s younger brother Alfie, 20, from Angel, Dylan Castano-Lopez, 19, from Camberwell, and Adam Atallah, 21, of no fixed abode, had all previously pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy.
The case has made headlines because of the gang’s use of violence – but has also shed light on the criminal networks that fuel the ever- growing smartphone theft economy, and the reason why Islington appears to be at the centre of this type of crime.
“This is clearly being driven by the handlers,” said Detective Inspector Duncan Platt, of the North Area Crime Command, which carried out the investigation.
“In this case we have found them to be small businessmen, who operate taxi companies, logistics or supermarkets – they’re the ones you find want the phones.
“They went all over the world but a large proportion went to Asia – Pakistan, Bangladesh, but also India.”
The court heard the 15- strong group, an alliance of an Islington gang and a Tottenham-based one, both of which cannot be named for legal reasons, broke into stores to steal hundreds of phone handsets.
They carried a gun, knives, hammers and a battering ram to trash the shops and attacked security guards on duty.
The court heard that hours after each raid, the gang would sell the phones to traders in Whitechapel and Hackney. Police found evidence that the buyers would send the gang detailed price lists beforehand, setting out exactly what, for example, an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy S8 would fetch on that particular day.
The robbers, who at times escaped with loot worth almost £50,000 stuffed in heavy-duty Ikea bags, would be paid up to £300 for each phone, making the raids extremely lucrative. Each job would net the crew between £10,000 and £30,000 in cash, police believe.
“I would describe the gang involved in this case as an organised criminal network,” DI Platt added. “There is a clear hierarchy, with younger members going around snatching phones. These guys [those convicted] are the next tier up. They do the bigger money jobs. I still think there’s someone above them that is organising this. That would be my personal thought.
“They were prepared to use violence. When Three realised they were being targeted they started putting security guards in their stores but that didn’t stop them coming, because they had weapons to break into shops and were more than happy to use these weapons to threaten people.
“This seems to be the trend in moped crime. They are becoming more violent. I think this is because of the money they can make.”
The detective said the two gangs linked up because one group had know-how and muscle to break into shops, whereas the Islington gang had experience of moped crime – and the contacts to sell phones on.
“The defendants knew the people who could get rid of the phones. Those links are more established in Islington,” DI Platt added.
The North Area Crime Command, a cross- borough initiative, took control of the investigation after detectives started to link the raids, which took place across north and east London.
Details of where the phones were being shipped emerged after Apple shared information with the Met about where people were starting to use the iPhones.
Police believe the gang targeted Three shops because the company exclusively sells unlocked phones, making them more valuable to sell secondhand.
The gang were caught after Three placed trackers in dummy phones that were then stolen, revealing the gang’s movements.
The handlers of the phones are subject to a separate police investigation. Suspects have been interviewed but no one has been charged to date, DI Platt said.
The five gang members will be sentenced following a trial involving other alleged gang members in October.