A FEMALE shoplifting gang got away with £10,000 worth of goods in a series of raids on a retail park.
They targeted the BHS store on the Broughton Retail Park over a number of weeks.
The three women were driven to the park on a number of days and they sometimes walked out with trolley loads of household goods and clothing, twice in one day.
Judge Niclas Parry, sitting at Mold Crown Court, yesterday jailed Nicola Andrews, 33, of St Anne’s Close in Birkenhead, for nine months, Emma McElhoney, 29, also of St Anne’s Close, for six months and Samantha Chant, 25, of Beckwith Street in Birkenhead, for three months.
Andrews admitted four thefts, McElhoney five, and Chant three offences with one taken into consideration.
Judge Parry made an order under The Proceeds of Crime Act that their criminal benefit was £10,000, but nothing had been recovered.
He made a £1 nominal order to keep the order alive in case they come into money in the future.
Judge Parry said: “This has all the hallmarks of a professional shoplifting enterprise.
“That is what you are, professional thieves.”
They had taken items of high value after travelling from outside the area to target the retail park.
“You worked as a team and did so repeatedly,” he said.
The judge warned the consequences of such thefts not only affected company profits but impact upon their ability to employ ordinary people locally.
The cost to consumers was high, there were insurance consequences, and expensive security systems had to be installed.
The cases of Andrews and McElhoney were seriously aggravated by their previous convictions, he said.
Nicolas Williams, prosecuting, said the offences occurred last October.
It was the prosecution case that the woman were driven to the retail park to steal.
Justine McVitie, for Chant, said one of the reasons for the offences was her client wanted to give her grandmother a decent funeral.
But Judge Parry said he was not impressed by that explanation.
She had not mentioned it in police interview and said it had been personal gain in order to buy drugs.
Gerry Pachter, for McElhoney and Andrews, said both women were vulnerable and suffered ill-health.
McElhoney was being squeezed by loans sharks, he said, and committed the offences to get cash because her son was being threatened.
At the time Andrews owed money for drugs but had since put that issue behind her.
See full story in the Chester Leader