Thieves used £20,000 'Game Boy' device to unlock and steal cars in Yorkshire, court hears

A car theft gang used a £20,000 high-tech device to open and steal five SUVs from outside victims' homes in Leeds and Wakefield, a court heard.

The 'Game Boy' cost £20,000 and could unlock cars without keys.

The device - which looks like a Nintendo Game Boy - was used to trick keyless entry security systems on cars, Leeds Crown Court was told.

The trio stole five Mitsubishi Outlander vehicles worth more than £180,000 between June 28 and July 21.

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Dylan Armer, 29, Christopher Bowes, 33, and Thomas Poulson, 31, all admitted conspiracy to steal the five Outlanders.

The court heard a video was found on Poulson's phone which appears to show him using the device.

They were arrested on July 20 after a £40,000 Mitsubishi Outlander was stolen from the driveway of a house in Scholes, Leeds.

CCTV showed them unplug the car from its charging point before using the device to unlock and start it.

As the car was reversed away it knocked down a drainpipe and damaged the car parked behind it.

Police were called and details of the suspects’ car, a Ford Galaxy, and the stolen car were passed on.

Armed police swooped and the three men were arrested.

When officers from Leeds District Crime Team searched the Galaxy, they found the high-tech car theft device hidden in a concealed compartment in the vehicle.

It was examined and identified as a device used to steal Mitsubishi Outlanders.

Research showed the gadgets cost around £20,000 and can unlock cars in less than a minute.

Ayman Khokar, prosecuting, said Bowes acted as the driver taking the trio to steal vehicles while Poulson operated the device and Armer drove the stolen Outlanders away.

A £36,000 Mitsubishi Outlander was stolen from an address in Kippax on July 20 and a £24,000 Outlander was taken from an address in Wakefield on July 13.

Mr Khokar said a message recovered from Poulson's mobile phone at 10.48pm that evening referred to a "Beemer X5 smoked."

Mr Khokar said just after 9.30pm that night there had been a police pursuit on Pontefract Lane and police had to abandon the pursuit for safety reasons.

A Mitsubishi Outlander had crashed on Halton Moor Road in Leeds and the driver had made off before police arrived.

Mr Khokar said a further message on Poulson's phone read "Dyl smoked X5."

A £46,000 Outlander was stolen in Leeds on July 9.

And a £38,000 Outlander was stolen from York Road in Leeds on June 29.

Four of the stolen vehicles were later recovered

Armer also admitted three non dwelling burglaries in September 2020.

A detailed investigation, including CCTV and mobile phone data, linked the trio to the thefts of the Outlanders.

Recorder Dapinder Singh commended officers for the " impressive and sophisticated" police operation.

Armer, of Scalby Road, Scarborough was jailed for two-and-a-half-years

Poulson, of Delamere Gardens, Wakefield was handed a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Bowes, of Willow Grove, Clifford, Wetherby, was also handed a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Police said over May, June and July of this year, more than 30 Mitsubishi Outlander were stolen from addresses across West Yorkshire.

Enquiries built up a comprehensive trail of evidence that linked the men to a conspiracy covering the five offences.

Detective Inspector Vicky Vessey, of Leeds District Crime Team, said after the sentencing hearing: “These men were involved in the organised theft of Mitsubishi Outlanders across West Yorkshire, which will have brought distress, trauma and inconvenience to all the victims affected by their crimes.

“The utter disregard they had for the victims, whose hard-earned vehicles were whisked away in seconds, is totally apparent from the flippant tone heard on the video footage we recovered from one of their phones.

“They were brought to justice as a result of a thorough investigation that built up a clear evidential trail linking them to the offences.

“Unfortunately, criminals are constantly looking for opportunities to exploit technology to their advantage, and we would advise the owners of any vehicles with keyless entry and ignition, not just Mitsubishi Outlanders, to take additional security precautions such steering locks, driveways posts or wheel clamps, and to consider fitting a tracking device to assist us in tracing and recovering the vehicle should the worst should happen.”