Johnson gang leader faces longer sentence
10 May 2010
THE ringleader of the notorious Johnson family gang, who played the
key role in a series of audacious thefts at stately homes across the
UK, faces an increased prison sentence.
The judge in a confiscation hearing is convinced 34-year-old Danny
O’Loughlin knows where at least some of the stolen art and antiques
On April 30, following a lengthy and detailed hearing at Reading Crown
Court, Judge Christopher Critchlow said O’Loughlin – “probably the
leader” of the Gloucestershire gang – had made £1,229,748 from the
theft of £30m in art and antiques from properties including Ramsbury
Manor in Wiltshire, Warneford Place in Swindon and The Manor, in
Stanton Harcourt, Oxfordshire.
Under the Proceeds of Crime Act of 2003, O’Loughlin – currently
serving the 11 year sentence he received in 2008 – was told he must
hand over £113,200 within six months or face an additional 25 months
But, facing a £7m confiscation order, other Johnson family members,
who had received sentences of between eight and 11 years for
conspiracy to commit burglary two years ago, were thought to have
pocketed much smaller sums.
The defence counsel successfully argued they were of limited means
because they sold the stolen goods for a fraction of their value and
spent the money on a “hand-to-mouth existence”.
The gang claimed, for example, that they made just £15,200 each from
the raid at Ramsbury Manor, the home of property tycoon and
connoisseur collector Harry Hyams and the site of the most valuable
domestic burglary ever committed in the UK. An independent expert put
the value of the 300-plus items taken from Ramsbury at £23m. The gang
said they had accepted just £76,000 for the cache from a ‘fence’.
In total, the court decided Richard ‘Chad’ Johnson, 34, had made
£135,768 from criminal activity during the period April 2005 and
October 2006; Michael Nicholls, 30, had made £155,978 while Albi
Johnson, 27, had made £25,602.
As it was deemed the men had no current assets, each received only
nominal penalties of up to £178 although under the terms of the
Proceeds of Crime Act, they are now liable for life to have any money
they may come into seized by the authorities. They left the court
saying the outcome was “better than a not guilty verdict” having given
the judge a ‘thumbs up’.
The case of 55-year-old Ricky Johnson was dismissed as the judge was
unconvinced the family patriarch had actively taken part in the
Judge Critchlow conceded that Ramsbury treasures such as an early
Tompion bracket clock c.1675 (for which a value of £240,000 was given)
and a silver-mounted ebony barometer by Daniel Delander (£650,000)
were now lost to the black market. But he found it “improbable” that
the family did not have further antiques stashed away.
It emerged at the hearing that, in a bid to persuade the judge to be
lenient, O’Loughlin had arranged for stolen items valued at £643,000
to be returned while he was behind bars.
O’Loughlin’s surrender of 93 pieces was thought to be the first time
someone being pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act has volunteered
information from prison that has led to the recovery of stolen
property. The court heard that some of the stolen antiques were
recovered from the Cleeve Prior Travellers’ Site, where all five
members of the gang lived. Of the 93 items, 42 were from Ramsbury,
Warneford Place and The Manor.
Simon Burns, prosecuting, told the judge there was an “inescapable
inference” to be drawn that the family still had knowledge of the
whereabouts of more booty.
The haul of some of the stolen Ramsbury items, found secreted in an
underground bunker on the outskirts of Stratford-upon-Avon some months
after the raid in 2006, was valued here at £2.3m, approximately one
tenth of the value of the total theft.