A MAN is one of 11 who have been jailed after an investigation into a series of armed business robberies.

Christopher Marsh, 36, of Ashbourne Avenue, Hindley was sentenced today, Friday, to eight years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

His conviction was made possible by Operation Miami, a Greater Manchester investigation into linked groups of offenders into robberies that took place in late 2017 and early 2018.

The groups terrorised businesses across Greater Manchester, committing more than 22 violent armed robberies in just three months.

Leigh Journal:

Ryan Abram

Leigh Journal:

Kade Cole

Leigh Journal:

Karl Crompton

Based in the Little Hulton area, the groups 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 recognisance 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.

Leigh Journal:

Dean Hampson

Leigh Journal:

John Hardy

Leigh Journal:

Kade Huddard

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.

The groups emanated from the Little Hulton area, where many members lived and where many stolen vehicles were found burnt out or abandoned after an offence.

Offending linked to the gang began in late 2017 and by early 2018 the gang had been broken by GMP’s Operation Miami, which was launched in response.

In February 2018, police stopped a car in Ashton-in-Makerfield involved in recognisance for the gang.

Phones seized provided an insight into the gang’s organisation, key players and how raids were organised.

Leigh Journal:

Conor Openshaw

Leigh Journal:

Ashley Pollard

The phones also revealed the gang members’ blasé attitude to the fear and misery their offending was creating among the dozens of innocent victims they targeted.

Exchanged messages showed gang members referring to their criminality as "work" and congratulating one another for a "good shift" after a successful robbery.

Through examination of mobile phone data, ANPR camera work, CCTV, DNA evidence and covert surveillance techniques, the gang were broken with a series of arrests.

Leigh Journal:

Lee Wallbank

Leigh Journal:

Robert White

Today, Friday, as well as Marsh, the following were sentenced at Manchester Crown Court:

John Hardy, 29, of HMP Forest Bank, was sentenced to 13 years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery

Robert White, 29, of Fereday Street, Walkden was sentenced to 16 years for conspiracy to commit robbery. This will run concurrently with a previous sentence White 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 was sentenced to 14 years and six months in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Dean Hampson, 40, of Park Way Grove, Little Hulton was sentenced to seven years and two months in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Karl Crompton, 45, of Higher Brook Close, Horwich was sentenced to two years in prison for handling stolen goods. Namely, this was cigarettes stolen during robberies linked to the gang.

Previously, the following were sentenced for conspiracy to commit robbery as part of the Operation Miami investigation in September 2018:

Kade Cole, 28, of HMP Forest Bank, was sentenced to 17 years and nine months in prison.

Connor Openshaw, 23, of Longshaw Drive, Little Hulton was sentenced to 10 years and six months in prison.

Ashley Pollard, 30, of HMP Forest Bank was sentenced to eight years and six months in prison.

Ryan Abram, 21, of Redrose Gardens, Little Hulton was sentenced to seven years and eight months in prison.

Lee Wallbank, 28, of no fixed address, was sentenced to four years and six months in prison.

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.”