A thief has been jailed for more than two years after tobacco was stolen from shopkeepers visiting wholesalers in Rochester and Gillingham.
Cash and goods worth around £14,000 were stolen during a series of separate offences, which took place between 15 December 2019 and 20 January 2020, and were investigated by the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad.
Nelson Ripley, 33, of Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, admitted conspiring to steal and was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court to two years and three months’ imprisonment on Wednesday 17 August 2021.
Archie Ripley, 26, of McKillop Way, Sidcup, and Henry Ripley, 58, of Powerscroft Road, Sidcup, will be sentenced for their roles at the same court, on a date to be determined. Archie Ripley has previously admitted conspiracy to steal, with Henry Ripley found guilty of the same charge following a trial.
The shop keepers were targeted after they visited one of two tobacco wholesalers, based in Courteney Road, Gillingham, and Laker Road, Rochester.
The first incident took place at the Rochester location on 15 December 2019 and saw cigarettes and tobacco, worth just under £1,000, stolen from a shop worker’s car.
The second offence took place at the Gillingham location on 19 December. On this occasion, the victim was searching the boot of their car when an offender approached them from behind and snatched a bag of money, which contained more than £2,000.
On 23 December, around £4,660 worth of items were also stolen from a van after a shopkeeper purchased goods and briefly left his vehicle unattended, when he returned to his shop in Chatham.
A different victim was targeted on 10 January 2020, after they were followed back to their shop in Strood. Upon parking at their business, a man exited the vehicle that had been following the victim and walked towards them. He then opened a passenger door to grab tobacco worth £3,000 and a separate bag that contained £2,000 in cash.
The final theft took place on 20 January, after the victim bought tobacco worth £3,500 from the Gillingham location. While he loaded his van, a man approached the vehicle and snatched the items.
Henry and Archie Ripley were arrested less than two hours after the final theft took place. They were detained after officers quickly identified a suspicious Ford Fiesta and pulled it over in Powerscroft Road, Sidcup.
Detectives from the Chief Constable’s Crime Squad were then able to establish that mobile phones belonging to Nelson and Archie Ripley had been used at the scene of each offence.
Detective Constable Dan Bister, Kent Police’s investigating officer for the case, said: ‘The offenders of this case conspired to steal a considerable amount of money from honest, law-abiding businesses.
‘We were able to demonstrate to the court that a significant amount of planning had gone into each offence but, despite the offender’s best efforts, we were able to piece together the evidence that tied them to the conspiracy.
‘I am pleased that the victims have now seen justice served and that these organised thieves are unable to target more innocent victims.’