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Two Gatwick Airport workers who used their positions for systematic theft now have to repay the proceeds of their crimes, as well as going to prison.
At a Lewes Crown Court hearing today, Monday 13 September, Jason Bell and Nigel Thorpe were ordered to pay confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act for £18,600 and £157,411 respectively.
Bell was ordered to pay within 28 days, and Thorpe was ordered to pay within 6 months.
Bell, 32, of Norfolk Road, Horsham, and Thorpe, 42, of Horsham Close, Brighton, had been sentenced at the same court on 17 May this year to 18 months and 2 years imprisonment respectively, after each pleaded guilty to six charges of theft and money laundering.
Both worked for LSG Sky Chefs at the airport, Bell as a driver and Thorpe as a loader, transporting carts of duty free goods to and from aircraft.
After LSG reported the theft of more than 70 cartons of cigarettes from a First Choice flight in October 2006, police investigated and arrested the two men. Jason Bell was first to be arrested. He had rented a lock up and in it police found over £75,000 of cigarettes, tobacco, alcohol and perfume, all stolen from the LSG bonded warehouse. £19,000 cash was seized from him.
Financial checks on Bell showed a significant change in his financial status and that he and Thorpe had bought a house jointly and then sold it on.
Financial checks on Thorpe showed that at one point he held over £25,000 in bank accounts, although this had dwindled to some £4000 at the time of his arrest. He also owned a property in Bulgaria and over £56,000 in premium bonds.
LSG checked through long haul flights over a two month period in 2005 covering approximately 20 flights. Nine of the flights had been systematically 'stripped' by the two men. This and other evidence clearly showed that they had carried out large scale theft over two years.
Bell is considered to have gained over £62,000 and Thorpe over £240,000.
The detailed financial investigation was carried out by a police financial crime expert attached to the new South East Asset Recovery Team (SE RART), with detectives at Gatwick.
Detective Inspector Chris Neilson, of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit said; "This investigation is another example that shows we can pursue criminals of all kinds beyond their convictions and sentences, and make them pay back what they stole. This case took nearly four years to get to court and then to strip the criminals of their proceeds, but it can be done and we are now getting such results for the law-abiding public on a regular basis. Alongside conventional and still very important theft and other investigations, our financial investigators work in the background, building up the evidence that leads to results like this."
Detective Constable of Gatwick Police, who dealt with the case, said; "The Airport has a good reputation for staff honesty and we work closely with all partners here to ensure this remains the case, but there can be some who give in to temptation for what they see as easy pickings - this case should serve as a reminder of what can happen to them."