Pensioner 'sold huge amounts of Lego and other goods stolen from lorries by crime gang on eBay'
A PENSIONER sold stolen goods for tens of thousands of pounds on eBay, including Lego, and Red Bull Racing clothing that was supposed to be sold at the Austrian Grand Prix, that was raided from HGVs by an organised crime gang, a court heard.
Stella Mansfield, 77, from Essex Road, Romford, is facing several counts of handling stolen goods that came from a series of thefts from parked lorries as their drivers slept.
Mansfield, who denies the charges, listed some of the items, which also included Waterford Crystal products, defective Ugg boots and bespoke underwear for women who had mastectomies, within days or even hours of the thefts, Chelmsford Crown Court heard on Monday.
Several men and other women charged in connection with carrying out the 11 thefts, which totalled more than £700,000 in value, and handling the stolen goods that were taken between November 2016 and June 201, have already pleaded guilty, the court heard.
Once stolen, by slashing the lorry curtain-sides, the gang stored the loot in shipping containers at South Essex Storage in South Ockendon.
Philip McGhee, prosecuting, said: "Although the group had access to storage facilities, they plainly did not want to hold on to the stolen goods for too long and, indeed, to make money from them they needed to sell them on as fast as possible. The stolen goods would therefore be distributed by and among the group, and others, for onward sale and profit, often via online marketplaces such as eBay."
Mr McGhee said Mansfield was not involved in any of the thefts.
The first theft was overnight on November 30/December 1 2016 when a DAF XF lorry parked in a lay-by on the westbound A14 in Trimley St Martin, Suffolk, was targeted.
It was carrying goods for delivery to the warehouse of IEB Trading Limited, an online retailer of perfumes, cosmetics, haircare and skin products under the moniker of All Beauty.
Almost all the stock was taken with a loss to IEB Trading Ltd of £121,000.
Mr McGhee said three eBay pages controlled by Stella Mansfield (stella-mansfield-2009”, stella-mansfield45 and stellstellstella) were found to have listed 655 of the stolen items from December 5, four days after the theft, to April 4 2017.
She sold most of them, achieving a total sale price of £13,237 he said.
Mr McGhee said: "Miss Mansfield was not involved in committing the thefts themselves, but was instead a prolific and reliable handler for the group, willing to take the goods off their hands for money and sell them herself via online accounts.
"Evidence suggests Stella Mansfield was a significant mover in the subsequent distribution of the stolen products, having listed a very large number of them for sale on her eBay pages very soon after they had been stolen."
A few days after the first theft, overnight on December 6 to 7 2016 an HGV carrying a large quantity of Waterford Crystal was parked in a lay-by on the A12 at the junction with the A1023 in Mountnessing, Essex.
Twenty-six pallets of Waterford Crystal products were stolen with the value of the loss to the owner WWRD UK Ltd £24,107.
Overnight on December 15 to 16 2016 a white DAF HGV lorry containing 72 pallets of Lego was parked on the A12 at the junction with the B1002 at Ingatestone, Essex, when the gang stole 34 of them.
Some of the items that were heading to toy shops for Christmas had yet to be released by Lego.
Mr McGhee said: "The Lego shipping packages which contained the Lego were not for customer usage and were only used for business to business sales and movement to Lego stores.
"Packaging was recovered on December 20 2017 from the home address of Stella Mansfield... The packaging was of the same type, not supplied to the public, as the stolen items.
"Also, (the) three eBay pages controlled by Stella Mansfield were found to have listed between December 21 2016 and April 11 2017 a very large number of Lego products.
"In fact, 1,159 Lego items were listed, all of which were recorded on the list of items stolen during the theft.
"The 1,159 stolen Lego items were sold by Stella Mansfield for a total of £39,323."
Other thefts included Flexx shoes worth £53,401 from a lorry on the A176 at Basildon in January 2017 and Fangyate clothing worth £10,256 from an HGV on the A12 at Stanway, Essex, in February that year.
Then, Yiwu Kangbo shoes worth £83,890 were stolen from a lorry at the A14 at Trimley St Martin, Suffolk, overnight on March 2 to 3.
Overnight on March 6 to 7 2017 a lorry carry Amoena specialist mastectomy care lingerie parked on the A127 at Basildon, was targeted.
Twelve pallets of goods worth £11,803 were taken and one of the gang was in contact with Mansfield after this theft, the court heard.
More than 1,000 Hi-Tec boots, worth £26,211, were taken from a lorry on the A13 in Basildon overnight on March 7 to 8.
Then the next night (March 8 to 9)160 cartons of Hana underwear worth £10120 were stolen from a lorry on the A12 at Kelvedon, Essex.
Later, on March 9, police disrupted the activities of the group and arrested a number of the defendants at the storage yard.
However, some of the defendants continued to commit thefts.
On the night of March 30 to 31 2017 a lorry was parked on the A12 at Witham, Essex, carrying 23 pallets of Ugg shoes from the Netherlands bound for destruction in the UK due to having defective outer soles.
The gang stole 1,569 pairs and boxed Ugg shoes were later recovered from Mansfield's home.
Mr McGhee said: "The unique codes and references on four of the boxes at her address matched those of some of the stolen items and were confirmed to be boxed and unworn items approved for destruction by Ugg.
"Further, on a mobile telephone handset belonging to Stella Mansfield was a photograph of a silver Ugg shoe which had been taken at 1.04pm on March 31 2017, around 12 hours after the theft had occurred."
In the background of the photograph a distinctive striped wallpaper could be seen, which matched the wallpaper at the home address of John Crabb (42, of Ford Lane, Rainham), who has pleaded guilty to playing a lead role in the thefts and Claire Kemp, who has admitted handling offences.
Mr McGhee said: "A man called John Crabb appears to have been the main player in the group, having a co-ordinating role as well as playing a direct role himself in the commission of theft offences. He was strongly connected to the storage yard used by the group to store stolen goods... Claire Kemp (47, of Greenwood Avenue, Rainham) who has pleaded guilty to her involvement in some offences. She was the partner of John Crabb."
Later on March 9 Crabb and Kemp travelled to the vicinity of Stella Mansfield’s home address where they remained between 12.49 and 1.14pm, while monitored by covert police.
Mr McGhee said: "They were exchanging banknotes between themselves. Mr Crabb appeared to be counting the money and handing it to Ms Kemp."
He told the jury: "You will have to consider why John Crabb and Claire Kemp were at Stella Mansfield’s home address, why money was changing hands, whether that was payment for stolen goods, and what it all means for what Stella Mansfield knew or believed about those goods.
"The prosecution says that Stella Mansfield, once again, had obtained stolen goods from the group and had engaged in selling them, fully aware of their criminal origins."
More than two months later, overnight on June 19 to 20 2017 a lorry was parked in a lay-by on the A12 at Boreham, Essex, carrying Red Bull Racing branded clothing belonging to Ausvent Proprietary Limited, the appointed trackside retailer for the Red Bull Formula One Racing Team.
It was due to sell the "highly unusual" specialist merchandise worth £99,106 at the forthcoming Austrian Grand Prix.
Mr McGhee said: "Stolen Red Bull clothing was later recovered from the home address of Stella Mansfield on December 20 2017.
"It was also found that there had been 16 eBay listings of stolen Red Bull clothing on sites controlled by Stella Mansfield between June 21 and August 7 2017.
"Had Stella Mansfield innocently come into possession of these highly unusual goods, or – as the prosecution says – was she once again engaged in storing and selling plainly stolen goods knowing or at least believing them to have been stolen?"
Mansfield was arrested at her home at 8.30 am on December 20 2017.
She was interviewed under caution by police that day and on April 4 and July 12 2018 and made no comment throughout.
Shaun Murphy, defending Mansfield, said today she admitted selling the items, but insisted she had no idea they were stolen goods when they came into her possession.
He told the court she had been running eBay accounts since 2009 using her own name and address with 100 per cent positive feedback and no attempt to hide her identity.
He said: "There is no suggestion Mrs Mansfield was at the yard or her phone was in the vicinity of the yard (used for storing the stolen goods).
"She registered with eBay in 2009 and was a frequent user before the case started, registering in her own name and address and every transaction conducted came back to her. There is no suggestion she was using eBay listings other than those back to her."
He also said, although some stolen products had been listed shortly after the thefts, many were several weeks later, so she had been in no rush to get rid of the products.
He said: "It was not all in one go, it was in dribs and drabs."
Also on trial charged with being involved in one of the thefts and handling stolen goods is Joseph Cannon, 33, from South End Road, Rainham.
The court heard that Waterford Crystal rosary beads, with an item code matching that of one of the stolen items, were recovered from a Ford Transit the prosecution says was being used by Joseph Cannon and was caught on CCTV visiting the storage yard.
Mobile phone cell site evidence also indicated his phone was at the storage yard after being near to the location of the thefts of Yiwu Kangbo shoes and Hana underwear.
Mr McGhee said: "One of the police officers investigating the offending by this group looked at CCTV footage from the storage yard from March 9 and identifies Joseph Cannon as being present and driving the Transit van."
Bags of the stolen underwear were also found in his van, he said.
"The prosecution says, the evidence shows that Joseph Cannon played an active part in the theft of these goods," he said.
Cannon was interviewed under caution by police on June 27 2018 and made no comment.
He has since denied being in possession of the phone or driving the van at the times in question.
The trial continues.