Five men at the centre of a £2m theft scam from the railway transport system have been ordered to pay back just £1 each.
The organised criminal gang risked lives and caused public disruption to steal copper cabling from across the UK train network and were all put behind bars for their parts.
In the cases of all five of these defendants there are no assets available for confiscation.Judge John Evans
At Newcastle Crown Court today, prosecutor Mark Guiliani said the conspirators involved made a total personal profit of more than £167,000.
Boden Hughes, 27, of Fulwell Road, Sunderland - who was jailed for a total of 11 years for the rail conspiracy and setting fire to a North Sea ferry en route to Amsterdam - made a personal benefit of £12,688.
George Pascoe, 39, of Rowlandson Terrace, Sunderland, who was jailed for 27 months, made £11,708.
Robert Baker, 29, of Eastbourne Square, Sunderland, who was jailed for three years five months, James Curry, 29, of Calshot Square, Sunderland, who was jailed for three years and three months, and Darren Jones, 44, who is currently serving a 10-year sentence for aggravated burglary as well as 27 months for the thefts, each made £35,797.
The court heard despite the significant gains by the gang, investigators found no assets remaining in relation to any of them.
Judge John Evans ordered each man to pay back a total of £1 - within three months - or face a further 24 hours behind bars.
The judge told them: “In the cases of all five of these defendants there are no assets available for confiscation.
“Accordingly the court makes a nominal order of £1 in each of their cases with one day each imprisonment in default of payment within three months.”
Network rail engineer Anthony Innins, 42, of Plumtree Avenue, Sunderland, was the inside man for the gang and was jailed for four years and two months.
He also made £35,797 in the scam and was ordered back the £1,700 in assets he has available to seize.
The six-man team, who admitted conspiracy to steal, had taken the cable and transported it in specially-hired vans to merchants who bought in bulk.
During an investigation, codenamed Pathfinder, undercover police investigated a total of £2m loss to Network Rail through such thefts.
Innins’ gang targeted unmanned masts that were connected to the main power source through the copper cabling.
He was able to tell the thieves where the masts, some in very isolated areas, were located and ensure the power supply was safely disconnected from the metal.
The cabling and masts were in place ready for a new signalling system project the rail company was busy installing to improve the network and is now up and running.
The group targeted the masts, from as far south as Cornwall to as far north as Northumberland, over a two-year period between 2011 and March 2013.
A total of 14 sites, incluing Devon, Hampshire, Essex, Seaburn, Durham, Manchester and Gateshead, were targeted by the seven conspirators.
They were traced through mobile phone records, hire vehicle agreements and serveillence.
Their scam caused enormous problems to the enormous project being undertaken in a bid by Network Rail to improve the system.
Prosecutors said more important than the disruption was the risk to lives and wellbeing of railway employees, the travelling public and the criminal group of offenders.
The court heard it required great skill to isolate the electicity supply before the cabling was cut.