TWO men who unknowingly sold over £100,000 worth of stolen cars to the police during a six month sting operation called Operation Red Anvil have been jailed.

Dean Cronin, 41, and Daniel Gordon, 28, both from Cardiff, were operating at the top of a criminal network and were behind a campaign which saw luxury cars being stolen from driveways across south Wales.

Houses were being burgled for the car keys inside, and vehicles were literally being driven off while their owners were sleeping upstairs.

But little did they know, the buyers on seven occasions were police officers, who were building a file of damning evidence against the pair.

Over the course of six months, between June and November, 2016, Cronin and Gordon sold vehicles worth £110,000 to officers for just under £5,400, which included a 14 plate Mercedes GLA, worth £31,000, for just £1,200.

Cars being stolen were unknowingly sold to police officers working as part of a dedicated taskforce. The vehicles had been stolen from places such as Penarth, Cathays, Llanishen and Caerphilly. Officers were even offered two vehicles – a Nissan Juke and an Audi A3 - before the crime had been reported to the police, having been stolen from the same driveway in Penarth.

The police operation came to a head when Dean Cronin and Daniel Gordon were arrested on Tuesday, January 3, 2017, during a pre-planned operation.

They pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to handle stolen goods at Cardiff Magistrates Court on January 4, 2017. Dean Cronin was sentenced to 3 and a half years and Daniel Gordon sentenced to 20 months at Cardiff Crown Court today.

Detective Inspector Dean Taylor, said: “Dean Cronin and Daniel Gordon headed up an organised crime group which was behind a relentless campaign of crimes across the region. They created the market for stolen vehicles and in doing so they inflicted misery and the trauma of being the victim of a burglary upon lots of people.

“The cars which they sold on would have been stripped down for parts or cloned which means they would continue life on our roads as unregistered, illegal and therefore unsafe vehicles. Both these individuals deserve their time in prison, and I would like to provide my assurances that extensive investigations are ongoing to secure convictions for the burglaries which fuelled their illegal operation.”

Operation Red Anvil was run by police officers from the Cardiff Organised Crime Unit and supported by officers from the Welsh Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Following sentencing, Police and Crime Commissioner Alun Michael said: “Reducing crime is the prime purpose of policing and one of our key priorities is to keep people safe in their homes and communities. This case demonstrates the lengths that police officers go to in order to tackle crime and bring offenders to justice.

“The officers were relentless in their pursuit of these criminals and I commend their actions on behalf of the victims, who can take some comfort knowing that the individuals who burgled their homes and stole their possessions are now behind bars, and on behalf of the public.”