A CRIMINAL gang stole high value cars to order or took them from driveways after homeowners left their engines running as they defrosted windows in winter.

Luxury vehicles like a Porsche Boxster, BMW M140i and a £35,000 Mercedes ML 250 were targeted by the crew who made off with cars worth nearly £150,000.

Prosecutor Andrew Kendall said the gang operated in the Newport area between December 14 December 2018 and January 23.

Daniel Niinemae, aged 37, of Cader Idris Close, Risca, Dominic Hughes, aged 28, of Windsor Road, Six Bells, Abertillery, Stuart Smith, aged 37, of Tristan Edwards Place, Merthyr Tydfil and Cameron Mushtaq, aged 25, of Park Court, Hadley, Telford, Shropshire, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.

Mr Kendall told how the four were involved in an operation that also saw an Audi A5, two Volkswagen Golfs and a Honda CR-V pinched.

The thefts mainly took place in the Rogerstone area of Newport and some of the cars – including the Boxter – were recovered after the vehicles were abandoned.

Mr Kendall revealed how detectives were able to catch the gang through “cell site analysis” and from the information they also found on their mobile phones.

The court heard that one text message read that the Boxter was of no use because “Porsches are no good because he can’t sell them”.

Mr Kendall said: “Between December 14, 2018 and January 23, 2019, there was a series of burglaries and car thefts in the Newport area.

“The prosecution says that some, if not all of these vehicles were destined to be delivered to the defendant, Cameron Mushtaq in Telford.”

The court heard how Niinemae and Smith had long criminal records, the former with 19 previous convictions for 71 offences (including 25 for theft and kindred offences) and the latter had 24 previous convictions for 55 offences, including nine for theft.

Hughes was of previous good character and Mushtaq had four previous convictions for six offences, including robbery.

David Pinnell, for Niinemae, said his client made no attempt to minimise his role in the conspiracy and had suffered through his drug habit.

Kevin Seal, mitigating for Smith, told the court his client had “expressed victim empathy”.

Harry Baker, for Hughes, asked the judge to take into account the defendant’s guilty plea and that he had no previous convictions.

Seamran Kaur Sidhu, representing Mushtaq, said her client was “embarrassed and remorseful” for his actions.

Judge Nicola Jones told the four: “This was an unsophisticated operation which wreaked havoc on the people who were the victims in this case.

“You were stealing to order.”

Niinemae was jailed for 21 months and Smith for 19 months.

Hughes was jailed for 18 months, suspended for 22 months, and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and complete a five-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

Mushtaq was jailed for 18 months, suspended for 22 months, and he was ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and 35 thinking skills sessions.

Outside the court, Detective Constable Michelle Thorne, Gwent Police’s officer in the case, said: “This sentencing marks the end of a complex investigation into an organised crime gang spread across England and Wales who stole multiple cars in Gwent, with the aim of transferring and selling their parts.

“I would like to thank colleagues at South Wales and West Mercia Police Forces for their assistance, and to the victims of these thefts who have supported the investigation throughout.

“I hope this case acts as a reminder to drivers that they should be vigilant – no matter the weather – against opportunistic thieves. Lock the windows and doors of your house, day and night, and do not leave vehicles unattended or running.

“We will not tolerate this type of criminal behaviour in our communities, and will continue to work tirelessly to break up such activity and bring those responsible to justice. If you have any information or concerns about similar offences, please call us on 101 or direct message us via Facebook or Twitter.”