A YOUNG man from Bradford was part of a “sophisticated” gang that stole Range Rovers worth £237,500 over a seven-month period.

Uwais Akhlaq, 21, of Chellow Dene View, was sentenced to 28 months in jail for conspiring to steal motor vehicles, at Bradford Crown Court on Thursday.

He pleaded guilty to the offence on the same day.

Seven Range Rovers – which varied in type and style – were stolen by the group across Bradford, Leeds, and Calderdale between November 2022 and June 2023, the court heard.

One of the vehicles – a black Range Rover – was taken from a car park at Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI) in the week of Christmas Day, in 2022.

The car belonged to a worker at the hospital who had parked up for the day and locked and secured it.

But at around 2pm on that day – December 19 – he was moving around inside the hospital building when he looked into the car park and his Range Rover had disappeared.

The worker’s iPhone notified him that the vehicle had been stolen.

It was three months before the owner was reunited with the car, which “greatly inconvenienced” him as the man used it to assist his disabled wife with mobility, according to the prosecution.

There were also Christmas presents in the vehicle which were all lost – the man said these were not expensive but had sentimental value.

The prosecution said police actually witnessed the seventh Range Rover being cut into parts, after a bust at AK Auto’s, in Myrtle Street, Bradford.

The garage was “essentially a chop shop for stolen cars”, the court heard.

CCTV footage from the location seized by police showed Akhlaq at the garage seemingly arranging for a vehicle to be delivered there, according to the prosecution.

Shortly after, a Range Rover arrives and Akhlaq can be seen assisting those in the car to reverse it into the garage.

The prosecution said: “It was clearly a delivery with his instructions”.

The vehicle had been stolen from a woman in the early hours of June 17, 2023 and tracked to the garage.

It was parked on the driveway of her home and her husband was alerted to a problem when their dog began barking.

He looked outside the window and noticed two men were in the Range Rover driving away from where it had been parked.

The gang’s modus operandum was to scout out vehicles, before returning and using a “jammer” to get into the car and then an on-board diagnostics (OBD) device to override the vehicle’s security system, before driving off with it, the court heard.

They would then park the car on a drive away from their home with false plates, before returning if the vehicle’s tracker system was not activated or there was no police activity.

An officer spotted Akhlaq in a silver Range Rover Evoque on December 21, 2022, the day after it was stolen, which was driving along Scotchman Road, in Heaton.

The prosecution said: "They made off at speed, they had clearly seen the police officer tailing them.

"She noted it was already on false plates". 

The court heard Akhlaq had three mobile phone seized and photos were found of a number of Range Rovers with their original plates, indicating these were taken during the scouting part of the process.

Akhlaq’s involvement also included driving some of the vehicles away, as well as starting one on an occasion before another person drove the car off.

In mitigation, Saf Salam – Akhlaq’s defence lawyer – said the 21-year-old had suffered a “turbulent childhood” where his mother showcased “unpredictable behaviour” and he had “unstable living arrangements”.

Akhlaq’s father was present in court and Mr Salam said he recognised his “lack of discipline” had impacted his son’s behaviour and social circles.

His Honour Judge Jonathan Gibson said: “The offending was sophisticated in the sense photos on the mobile phone clearly indicated reconnaissance to identify motor vehicles to be stolen.

“The mode of entry was sophisticated as well, being able to get into vehicles in a keyless manner, so they weren’t damaged in that way, and to get round the security system, start them, and drive them away.”

He added: “There doesn’t seem to be any doubt the motivation behind this offending was financial.”