Jail sentences totalling almost 32 years have been dealt out to a criminal gang who sold stolen luxury cars, hard drugs and firearms.

Homes across West Yorkshire were burgled for car keys and high-performance vehicles, valued at up to £50,000, were stolen then sold on dirt cheap - some in a matter of hours.

Four ring leaders of the gang - three of them Bradford men - were locked up for a total of 23 and a half years yesterday.

In all, 13 men were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for their part in the highly-organised conspiracy that saw prestige vehicles valued at a total of £1.25 million stolen in a three-month crime spree.

Kevin Gawthorpe, 24, of Thackray Road, Ravenscliffe, was jailed for eight years. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to supply firearms.

He was involved in the selling on of eight stolen vehicles valued at £600,000.

His barrister, Balbir Singh said Gawthorpe's £1,500 profit from his crimes went to his partner and their young child.

Matthew Holmes, 25, of Harrogate Terrace, Eccleshill, was jailed four and a half years for conspiracy to supply firearms including a Colt revolver. Holmes bragged to undercover police officers that he could also get shotguns, the court heard.

His barrister Sean Morris said Holmes boasted to make himself appear more important than he was.

Dean Burnside, 23, of Norbury Avenue, Ravenscliffe, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and was jailed for four years. He was also ordered to serve 632 days from a previous prison sentence.

Another central organiser of the gang Zakir Sheik, 24, of Thorncliffe estate, Staincliffe, Dewsbury, was jailed for seven years. He admitted conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles and supplying heroin and cocaine to undercover police officers.

Judge Jennifer Kershaw QC described Sheik as a "go-between" and said he was involved with seven stolen cars with a total value of £600,000.

Sheik's barrister, Elyas Patel, said that Sheik also boasted to undercover officers of previous criminal involvement when he was, in fact, of good character.

"He boasted he got eight years' jail for ram raiding - in fact he never had a parking ticket," said Mr Patel.

During a three-day hearing prosecutor Adrian Waterman told the court how teams of burglars went "tea-time creeping" to target high-value vehicles.

A total of 80 were stolen from areas including Bradford, Ilkley, Otley, Yeadon and Cleckheaton, before police swooped on December 1, 2004.

One victim in Baildon found his Mercedes-Benz gone and his £48,000 Maserati being reversed down his drive. The thief was unable to control it and crashed it into a wall before fleeing.

The court heard that another victim was a district nurse whose MG convertible was sold for a few hundred pounds.

The ring was smashed in a sting by four undercover police officers who trapped the gang using hidden cameras and other surveillance equipment.

On one occasion an unsuspecting gang member was handed wads of notes for a stolen car while sitting in a police vehicle. As well as buying cars from the gang, the officers also paid them for heroin, cocaine and firearms.

One officer, known as Danny, posed as a drug and car dealer from the south of England. He was offered cars at knocked down prices including a £52,000 Jaguar for £1,500.

Also locked up were Nasir Sabir, 21, of Killinghall Road, Undercliffe, who was locked up for three months for conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

Linval Depass, 21, of Fagley Road, Fagley, was jailed for 16 months for conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles.

Christopher McHugh, 19, of Swinnow Green, Pudsey, who is already serving a sentence for another offence, was given 13 and a half months in a young offender institution. He pleaded guilty to handling a stolen BMW.

Leslie Folkard, 30, of Thackray Road, Ravenscliffe, was jailed for 16 months for house burglary and conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles.

David Gow, 27, of Findon Terrace, Ravenscliffe, who handled a stolen BMW, was jailed for six months and ordered to serve 93 days from a previous sentence.

Louis Jones, 24, of Roundwood Avenue, Ravenscliffe, was jailed for 17 months for conspiracy to handle stolen vehicles and possession of heroin.

Gordon Lynch, 44, of Roundwood Avenue, Ravenscliffe, was jailed for 21 months for conspiracy to supply firearms.

Ridzwan Omar, 27, of Millbrook Gardens, Dewsbury, was jailed for four months for handling a stolen BMW.

Maqsood Motala, 22, of Rosedale House, Batley Carr, Batley, was jailed for nine weeks for conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

The judge praised the "courage and resourcefulness" of the four undercover officers who trapped the gang in Operation Talon.

Undercover 'sting' was risk police had to take to trap gang

Undercover detectives put themselves at risk by posing as criminals to infiltrate the car gang taht stole £1.2 million worth of vehicles.

Officers handed over thousands of pounds in cash for drugs and firearms during deals with the unsuspecting criminals in unmarked police cars.

It proved a dangerous but crucial tactic which went a long way towards getting the evidence police needed to convict the gang.

Detective Inspector Jon Hoyle, of West Yorkshire Police's Drugs and Organised Crime Group, said: "That part of the investigation was important because it gave us the opportunity to gather direct evidence on these individuals.

"It is an unusual step for the police to take but it is a tactic we will consider if the circumstances are right. It goes without saying that something like this is dangerous and something we have to risk assess on a daily basis."

Operation Talon was set up by the Drugs and Organised Crime Group in September 2004 after a sudden outbreak of Hanoi burglary offences, where homes are broken into for keys to steal high-value cars.

Police embarked on an intense three-month period of inquiries to identify the offenders and put together the evidence to lock them away, using undercover officers and surveillance experts.

They initially concentrated on Sheik, who was identified as a significant organiser.

As the investigation progressed it became clear a large criminal network was involved in other more serious offences, including the supply of class A drugs and firearms.

When police made their move, in December 2004, they recovered heroin, handguns and a shotgun during searches of 20 addresses, in Bradford, Dewsbury and Leeds, linked to the gang.

Det Insp Hoyle said the gang had been committing crime on virtually a daily basis. He said: "They would not work together on every occasion but often went out in numbers to steal cars."

The gang stole 80 high-performance vehicles, including Mercedes Benz, Audis, BMWs, Lotuses and Porsches, worth £1.25m, and 15 of them, valued at about £175,000, have still not been recovered. It is thought they were given false identities and may have been shipped abroad.

Det Insp Hoyle said: "These criminals were highly organised. Their actions brought misery to many households.

"Not only did this gang put people through the distress that follows having your home invaded by thieves while you are in, but they also put them through the inconvenience and cost that comes in the aftermath of your car being stolen.

"This was not just about burglary and car crime. This gang was also involved in supplying class A drugs and firearms, which we know only too well destroy lives and wreak havoc in communities."

Undercover officers met the gang at a Bradford petrol station to deal in stolen cars, guns and drugs. One counted out a wad of bank notes while an unsuspecting gang member sat in his police car.

Holmes sold officers a Colt revolver and ammunition and other handguns.

"The fact that they were prepared to sell firearms puts them in the category of being potentially dangerous," said Det Insp Hoyle. "It was a very intense three-month investigation, very meticulous and very satisfying in that we have been able to put together a case against a well-organised crime group so compelling that they had no option but to plead guilty.

"We are not complacent that they are the only ones committing these types of crime and we will be continuing our efforts to prevent such offences and catch those involved."