A TEENAGE gang who conspired to steal £500,000 of luxury cars from quiet housing estates across Lancashire has been jailed for more than 20 years.

Burglars and car thieves, one as young as 15, worked in teams, trying front doors and car doors in targeted areas, before fleeing with the motors, Preston Crown Court was told.

Ringleader Dylan Quayle, then 17, was involved in around 40 break-ins during the spring and summer of 2017, across East Lancashire, Chorley, Bolton and Preston. For his role in the conspiracy he was jailed for five years and 10 months.

Prosecutor Jonathan Brown said homes in Wilpshire and Langho were burgled when front doors had been left unsecured or using a ‘hook and cane’ method to snatch house keys.

Among the haul of Audi, BMWs and Lexus cars was an Audi R8 supercar.

He added: “The areas targeted were very often well-to-do housing areas, generally on the outskirts of towns. Areas where there was not a great deal of traffic late at night, particularly where, after the main hours of work, there were very few people around in the early hours.”

Housing estates would be ‘covered’ by a number of the young men simultaneously. Often they were on the lookout for specific makes and models.

The gang would keep in contact via mobile phones, using WhatsApp messages and texts to keep each other aware of their movements, said Mr Brown.

An estimated £493,150 worth of cars were taken, with vehicles totalling £103,000 never recovered. Some of those arrested were detained after DNA was recovered from homes or cars.

An aggravating factor of the burglaries was that most of the properties targeted were occupied at the time with families in bed asleep. Also on several occasions where police patrols had spotted stolen vehicles, which were displaying the registration plates of similar make and models, the drivers ignored instructions to stop and had driven recklessly. That had then forced officers to call off the pursuit.

Quayle, of Thirlmere Road, Chorley, now 19, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracies to burgle and steal cars. He was said to be involved in 40 burglaries or attempted break-ins.

Phillip Sharrock, 22, Jason Booth, 23 and Joshua Penney, 21, all currently or formerly from the Chorley area, pleaded guilty to similar offences. They were each sentenced to seven years and six months.

Luke Ricardo, 19, of Tyldesley Road, Atherton, admitted to the car theft conspiracy alone and was given a two-year community order with 160 hours unpaid work. Ryan McCarrick, 20, of Victoria Road, Horwich, pleaded guilty to similar involvement and was sentenced to 15 months in a young offender’s institution, suspended for two years.

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Two teenagers from Chorley, aged 17, admitted to their roles in the operation. One was given a two-year youth referral order and told to do 120 hours unpaid work. The other was due to be sentenced at the youth court.

Speaking after the hearing, Sgt Mike Riley said: “This was a sophisticated and well organised criminal operation targeting high value and high performance cars with many homes being violated while the occupants were asleep in bed at the time.

“The gang disguised the identities of the stolen cars using cloned plates or plates stolen from legitimate vehicles and communicated using mobile phones deleting many of the messages involved. They also made use of gloves to minimise forensic opportunities and hooded tops to evade detection by CCTV.

“I welcome today’s sentences which reflect the both the gravity and scale of the offending.”