A pillar of Preston’s Muslim community has walked free from court after admitting his involvement with an organised crime gang.
Imran Patel, 36, the former president of the Quwwatar Mosque in Deepdale, allowed his tyre garage in Deepdale Mill Street to be used as a ‘chop shop’ for stolen prestige cars.
Two men have already been jailed for their roles in handling the stolen BMW, Audi, Seat and Porsche, which were taken in burglaries in Chorley, Longridge and Grimsargh in August 2013.
Patel also faced a prison sentence but after reading a number of glowing references, including a letter from Hanif Omar, the president of the Preston Muslim Society, who spoke of Patel’s “positive contribution to society and the local community”, Recorder Howard Bentham QC said he was prepared to suspend Patel’s 18 month sentence for two years.
Preston Crown Court heard Patel, who is a serving member of the Madrasa committee at the mosque in Peel Hall Street, Deepdale, was approached by Michael McGuinness who asked to use his garage as a storage facility.
Patel agreed but he soon became suspicious when the bodies of an Audi A3 and a BMW 730 were crushed - despite the high value of the vehicles.
On September 26 2013, police visited the garage in Deepdale Mill Street where they discovered a Seat Toledo.
When officers asked Patel for the keys, he seemed nervous and was visibly shaking as he reached them down from above a door frame, the court heard.
Closer inspection of the vehicle revealed it had been stolen in a burglary in Chorley the previous month and was carrying false licence plates.
Further searches of the garage uncovered parts from an Audi which had been stolen from Grimsargh and a BMW taken in a burglary in Longridge.
Alison Mather, prosecuting, said: “The defendant was arrested and questioned about these vehicles. He said Mickey and Pete had asked him to store them but had later asked him to dismantle them.
“Despite the obvious high value of these vehicles he was unable to give an explanation as to why dismantling and crushing these vehicles would be cost effective.”
Russell Davis, defending, described Patel as “a naive and inexperienced criminal who had become involved, against his better judgement, having been approached by more experienced criminals.
“He allowed his garage to be used for three vehicles. When vehicles are stolen it is essential to make arrangements for the vehicles to be removed from the area or have a secure place available locally so they can be secreted away quickly and worked upon.
“He understands the role he played is significant.”
CCTV taken from the garage showed Michael McGuinness, 27, of Cemetery Road, Ribbleton, bringing the vehicles to the garage.
Peter Hull, 24, of no fixed address, acted as a driver for McGuinness after he had delivered the stolen vehicles.
All three men pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods.
Recorder Bentham, sentencing, said: “Burglary is one of the most offensive crimes and without people like you to handle stolen goods, burglars wouldn’t commit these crimes.
“That is why your offences are very serious.”