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18 April 2015, 08:07 | Updated: 30 March 2016, 13:50
A gang who robbed 13 shops in under two months have been jailed for a total of 27 and a half years.
Ashleigh Evans, Marcus Morgan, Liam Bell and Trea Richardson used umbrellas to hid the fact their faces were covered as they went into shops, threatening staff and taking cash.
Their spree began at Staples in West Bromwich and armed with hammers and screwdrivers threatened staff into handing over money from the tills.
They also targetted Farm Foods in Tipton, Towsure Products in Halesowen, the Post Office on Londonderry Road in Oldbury Home Zone in Bearwood, Asda in Coseley, Asda in Netherton, PC World in Wednesbury, Asda, this time in High Street, Dudley and Asda on New Road in Kidderminster.
The robberies became increasingly violent with imitation guns being used to threatened shop workers.
Evans of Vale Street, West Bromwich; Morgan of Park Road, Tividale; Bell of Bellvue Road, Rowley Regis and Richardson of Grafton Road, Handsworth, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob at an earlier hearing.
They were sentenced to a total of 27 and a half years at Birmingham Crown Court.
Detective Sergeant Rich Whitehouse from Force CID said: “The money and value of goods stolen − while significant − is nothing compared to the impact these offences have had on the staff members of the targeted premises.
“These offences were carefully planned and the group went to great lengths to conceal their involvement − often using umbrellas as cover when walking from the street to the shops, so as not to draw attention to their face coverings.
“However, the more offences they committed the more arrogant they became, but their plans were no match for the speed of our officers, who were able to seize key evidence from the first Asda robbery before they had a chance to remove it.
“There was also a clear escalation in the type of weapons used in the robberies and I am in no doubt they would have gone on to seriously hurt someone had they not been stopped.
“I hope the sentences handed to these individuals will bring some comfort to those affected by their actions, who we hope can now begin to put the distress of what happened behind them, safe in the knowledge that these dangerous criminals will be behind bars for a considerable length of time."