A BOLTON shopkeeper, who once claimed he was helping the police in preventing mobile phone theft, has been jailed for eight months after attempting to smuggle 49 stolen devices into Morocco.
Ishak Patel, 59, was stopped by customer officers after he tried to board a flight at Manchester Airport.
They discovered he was carrying 71 mobile phones with police officers later able to prove that 49 were stolen or lost.
Patel, who is manager of Fone Warehouse in St Helens Road, Daubhill, appeared in the Bolton News seven years ago alongside officers who were launching a clampdown on stolen mobiles being bought and sold on in shops across the borough.
At Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Zoe Dawson, prosecuting, said Patel was stopped at Manchester Airport on November 8 2019 after his baggage was searched.
Customs officers found the phones “bundled in his bag” and when he was questioned Patel, of Dijon Street, Bolton, explained that he owned a mobile phone shop in Bolton and was taking the phones to Morocco to sell them.
He said he had purchased the phones off members of the public who would come to his shop but he admitted that he had not checked if they were legitimate and could not provide any invoices.
Three phones were checked at the airport with each found to be registered as stolen and the remainder were seized.
All 71 phones were later checked with 49 found to be reported lost or stolen with officers able to identify ten of the owners.
The latest a phone was reported as stolen was just five days before Patel was stopped at the airport.
Ms Dawson said the phones were lost or stolen from various locations including Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Doncaster.
The majority had been taken while the owner was on a night out.
In interview Patel said he rarely purchased second hand phones but when he did he would check they weren’t stolen but hadn’t done so on this occasion.
He said a man had attended a store with a box full of phones which he had bought for £7,000 in cash and he told officers he was a regular visitor to Morocco.
Davies, defending, said Patel, who pleaded guilty to dishonestly receiving stolen goods, was a father of five who was a “tirelessly hard working individual” with no previous convictions.
Sentencing Patel, Judge Bernard Lever, said mobile phone theft was a “very significant criminal problem”
He added: “If there were no handlers there would be no thieves so an example has to be made of you in order to persuade people to keep their dishonest hands off large numbers of mobile phones.”