THREE men were jailed yesterday for their part in a wellplanned operation selling stolen car parts via the online auction site Ebay.

Stolen vehicles were broken up at a workshop by mechanic William John Shanley, then sold by Iain Boddy and John Merchant via various Ebay accounts.

Durham Crown Court heard that in some cases they made dummy bids to manipulate the auction price upwards and also sent endorsements, pretending to be satisfied customers to improve their standing to potential buyers.

Gavin Doig, prosecuting, said parts which remained unsold on Ebay were sold for scrap.

“The value of the vehicles stolen was put at more than £100,000, but police investigating their activities have been unable to trace a large number of car parts sold by them.

“The investigators cannot get entirely to the bottom of it because of the use of Ebay.

“It has made tracing all the parts difficult.

“There’s a national element to it, with 28 police constabulary areas involved and sometimes identification numbers have been ground off, for obvious reasons.”

Mr Doig said it came to light in October 2010, when two police officers saw smoke coming from allotments and found a silver Ford Transit being worked on by Shanley.

He added: “He claimed to be ‘doing a job’ for someone, who, the prosecution believe, was John Merchant, as he turned up while the police were there and immediately drove away.”

The Transit, worth about £5,500, was stolen the previous night.

When this was put to him, Shanley told the officers: “I’m not doing any more work for them.”

A subsequent search revealed parts of stolen vehicles and Shanley admitted working on the Transit on behalf of Merchant, who would dispose of the rest of the vehicle.

Mr Doig said examination of a lap-top computer recovered from Boddy’s home revealed evidence of five Ebay accounts, one of which had sold 64 items in two months during 2010.

Boddy, 29, of Elliott Terrace, Merchant, 25, of Oxford Street, and 31-year-old Shanley, of High Street, all Eldon Lane, near Bishop Auckland, each admitted conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

A further charge of handling a stolen quad bike, taken from a farm in Crook, was admitted by Boddy.

Barristers for the trio – Paul Currer for Boddy, Bob Spragg for Merchant and Christopher Attwool for Shanley – said they made significantly less from the sale of the parts than the value of the vehicles from which the parts came.

Jailing Boddy and Merchant for 15 months and Shanley for ten months, Recorder David Bradshaw told them: “This was a carefully planned exercise to be able to receive these stolen goods, and to organise their breakdown and disposal by sale.

“Each of you played your parts.”

􀁧 A fourth defendant, Arthur Mark Savoury, 34, of Woodlands, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, who admitted possessing criminal property, by assisting in laundering money, received an eightmonth sentence, suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work.