A FENLAND rogue trader who ran an illegal scrap yard on an ‘unprecedented’ scale has been jailed and stripped of almost £700,000 in assets.
The court determined that Tony ‘Tiger’ Gray’s operation netted him more than £2 million in illegal earnings over a five year period.
The Builder’s Yard in Wheatley Bank, Walsoken, was raided in a joint operation, code-named ‘Invincible’, by Norfolk Police officers, the Environment Agency and HM Revenue and Customs on June 30, 2009.
The raid followed a year-long covert investigation by a host of agencies, led by Norfolk Constabulary. During the raid police found stolen property including a JCB digger worth £10,000 and that £20,000 in electricity had been illegally abstracted.
Gray had not applied for a licence to operate the one-and-a-half acre scrap yard and was subsequently charged with: Operating a motor salvage yard at The Builder’s Yard, Wheatley Bank, Walsoken, without the required licence from King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council; abstracting electricity at the above address; handling stolen goods; a proceeds of Crime Act offence.
On Friday Gray (56) appeared at Norwich Crown Court for sentencing, having admitted the offences at a previous hearing.
Mr Sailesh Mehta, prosecuting, said around 800 scrap vehicles were found in various states of dismantlement along with other stored polluting items associated with the scrap business.
There was evidence of contamination from oil and batteries and many vehicles still contained hazardous fluids and £122,000 in cash was also found hidden in three locations. Mr Mehta said aerial photographs taken in January 2009 showed hundreds of vehicles on the site, many piled two or three high.
The site extended from the main buildings near the entrance at Wheatley Bank to the opposite end of the site next to the A47.
Gray told investigating officers he had owned the Wisbech site for 18 years and ran a business called A47 Salvage buying cars and scrapping them. He claimed not to know he needed a licence to operate a waste site.
Mr Mehta said Gray had run the yard successfully for years without paying any tax on the income between 2003-9.
He unlawfully took electricity to run the business between 2006-9 and also converted about £17,000 of the proceeds through money laundering.
Gray was jailed by Judge Paul Downes for two years and three months and forfeited assets worth £698,427.86 under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA).
These included three houses, 408 vehicles, £122,000 in cash and £20,000 bank savings.