A criminal gang who targeted Chinese business owners by installing secret high-tech tracking devices on their cars for burglaries have been jailed.

The trio from Bradford were tracked down in a lengthy and complex investigation by detectives from Leeds District Crime Team as well as specialist digital media investigators at West Yorkshire Police’s Digital Intelligence and Investigations Unit.

Police first became aware of the trackers on December 22, 2020, when the owner of a Chinese takeaway’s home was burgled in Tingley, Leeds, after he left for about an hour.

Every room in the house had been ransacked, including the loft, while amounts of cash in sterling, euros, dollars and Chinese currency were stolen.

The victim told the attending officer that two days before the burglary someone had been seen going under their vehicle outside the takeaway business. They had checked at the time but found nothing untoward.

When the officer looked under the car, he found a small black box attached to the car’s rear axle with magnets. Inside the case was a tracking device.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: A tracking device used by the gang, pictured.A tracking device used by the gang, pictured.

The device and the app used to access it were analysed and further trackers were also identified, revealing the unknown criminals had targeted other victims.

As a result of lengthy and complex technical enquiries, three suspects were identified and warrants were executed at their addresses in Bradford.

The tracker gang included Andrew Lister, 26, of Churchfields, Fagley, Kameron Akram, 22, of Pelham Court, Eccleshill and Nathan Stapleton, 27, of Howarth Avenue, Five Lane Ends.

A further tracker was found at Lister’s address, and another was recovered at Akram’s home, along with drugs and cash.

Through detailed enquiries, detectives identified there was a conspiracy running from November 2020 to October 2021, involving multiple victims in the Leeds area.

Those targeted were the owners of Chinese restaurants and takeaways, and it is believed the offenders expected that cash from their businesses would be kept at their homes.

It was believed that once an address was identified from monitoring the movements of the trackers on their cars, other suspects were directed to commit the burglaries.

All three were jointly charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and pleaded guilty when they appeared at Leeds Crown Court in March.

Akram also pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis with intent to supply in relation to the drugs found at his address.

The trio was sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on Friday.

Stapleton was jailed for seven years; Lister was sentenced to six years and seven months in prison, and Akram received four years and four months in prison.

Detective Inspector Vicky Vessey, who heads the Leeds District Crime Team, said: “These offenders were involved in a criminal enterprise that was highly sophisticated and exploited relatively new technology.

“While the high-tech tracking devices they used gave them the ability to identify the homes of those they targeted, they were also their downfall.

“Criminals will exploit every means at their disposal to commit offences, but this case illustrates we are staying one step ahead.”