A Wigan thug is among six armed robbers who have been jailed after police stopping a car in the borough led to the breaking of a gang involved in violent business robberies across the region.
Christopher Marsh, 36, of Ashbourne Avenue in Hindley, was sentenced to eight years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery at Manchester Crown Court today (Friday).
The sentencing followed Operation Miami, which investigated a shocking series of more than 22 armed raids on businesses across Greater Manchester in just three months.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) detained a vehicle in Ashton in Makerfield in February 2018 and found it was involved in reconnaissance work for the massive criminal operation.
Phones seized gave detectives an insight into how the gang was organised, who the key players were and how it carried out raids.
Messages also showed the group were completely indifferent to the fear and misery their criminal spree was causing their dozens of victims.
Gang members referred to their criminality as "work" and congratulated each other on a "good shift" following one robbery.
Alongside Marsh in the crown court dock this week were:
John Hardy, 29, of HMP Forest Bank, who was sentenced to 13 years for conspiracy to commit robbery,
Robert White, 28, of Fereday Street, Walkden, sentenced to 16 years. This will run concurrently with a previous sentence he received of 11 years and four months in prison in September 2018 for conspiracy to commit robbery as part of Operation Miami.
Kade Huddart, 20, of Falcon Crescent, Swinton, who received 14 years and six months for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Dean Hampson, 40, of Park Way Grove, Little Hulton, who was sentenced to seven years and two months for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Karl Crompton, 45, of Higher Brook Close, Horwich who was sentenced to two years in prison for handling cigarettes stolen during robberies linked to the gang.
Five other men were put behind bars for conspiracy to commit robbery in September 2018.
The group, based in Little Hulton, terrorised businesses across Greater Manchester between late 2017 and early 2018.
They preyed on premises likely to be holding cash such as travel agents, convenience stores and service stations.
Typically, the groups would arrange a meeting to plan their raids and organise trips to the intended targets.
They would gather weapons later used in the offences, including machetes, axes, claw hammers and sledgehammers.
They even used iron grids, prized up from the road surface, to hurl through premises' windows.
Once inside they would threaten staff, attempting to gain access to safes or cash drawers and stealing cigarettes or any other valuables they could find from the counter areas.
Many more associated offences beside the business robberies are attributed to the gang – several relating to burglaries where vehicles were stolen to use in later offences.
Many of the cars were afterwards found burnt out.
Detective Sergeant Richard Castley of GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group said: “This was a very complex investigation involving a large number of ongoing robberies being committed by violent groups of organised criminals.
“When offenders were arrested and sent to prison other members of the gangs would take their place and then continue their offending.
“As a result of the hard work of several specialist units within Greater Manchester Police the criminality was brought to an end.
“The sheer number of offences committed in a short time frame presented challenges that we were able to overcome.
“I’m proud to say that despite the gang’s organised and violent nature, these criminals were brought to justice.
“They’re now serving lengthy sentences and our streets are safer as a result.”