Four men have appeared in court accused of involvement in a sophisticated keyless car theft and car ‘chop shop’ ring.
While the four co-accused had their cases returned to the Crown Court for trial, District Judge Bernie Kelly issued a warrant for a fifth alleged accomplice after she heard he had apparently left the jurisdiction.
The four are:
– Kyle Coulter (age unknown) from Ballybreagh Road, Portadown – one charge of handling stolen cars and car parts;
– Keith Winter (30), Greenview in Richhill – two counts of handling stolen car and car parts and one charge of possessing £58,885 of criminal cash;
– Vaidas Dambrauskas (38), from Northland Way, Moygashel – one charge of going equipped for theft with a screwdriver, scanner, electronic jammer and electronic wireless apparatus;
– Saulias Fereca (38), from Dawson Green in Portadown – going equipped for theft and handling stolen goods.
None of the facts were opened on Friday but earlier courts have heard how the charges arise after what police have described as a “chop shop” for high end stolen cars was discovered on Coulter’s 240 acre farm and that along with component car parts wrapped in silage packaging “ready for posting,” police also uncovered £30,000 in cash.
A prosecuting lawyer had outlined how the investigation centres around an “organised, sophisticated crime gang alleged to be committing keyless car thefts,” revealing that in the 12 months since their arrests in May last year, there had been 40 such thefts of high value cars said to be worth around £750,000 total.
The lawyer told the court that the searches of Coulter’s property “led to the identification” of Winter and to searches at other properties in the Armagh area linked to him.
Coulter has claimed that Winter has rented outbuildings and a yard from him and that is where the shells of six stolen cars and car components have been recovered and given evidence in an earlier occasion, DC Devlin revealed that searches of those other properties allegedly linked to Winter have also uncovered car parts.
She claimed that a “recovery truck” allegedly linked to Winter was found and that police believe the site of a fire in the yard was being used to destroy “personal belongings” and evidence from the stolen cars.
During a Preliminary Enquiry on Friday, a prosecuting lawyer submitted there was a Prima Facie case against each of the accused, a submissions conceded by their various defence lawyers.
Although given the opportunity to comment on the charges and to call evidence to the PE on their own behalves, all four men declined the opportunity.
Freeing them all in bail, DJ Kelly returned the case to Craigavon Crown Court and scheduled the arraignment for 8 November.
She also issued a bench warrant for the arrest of 30-year-old Dovydas Kulikauskas, from Killycomain Grove in Portadown.
You can join our Portadown News Facebook group here.
Sign up for our weekly newsletter here.