A man who stole six high-end cars and a van from a Ballymena car dealership has avoided a jail term after he appeared in court on Tuesday.
John Mongan admitted involvement in the theft of seven vehicles from MB Motors in in January 2017.
Belfast Crown Court heard the 29-year old, from Dunclug Park, Ballymena, was linked to the theft via fingerprints and DNA located on some of the stolen cars.
Mongan, who has 130 previous convictions, was handed a three-year prison sentence, which was suspended for three years, by Judge Geoffrey Miller QC.
A prosecution barrister said the vehicles – which included a Land Rover, an Audi A4 and a Mitsubishi Shogun – were stolen along with £1,000 and registration documents.
The stolen vehicles were valued at around £65,000, and after three were recovered and returned to MB Motors, the loss to the business amounted to over £29,500, the court heard.
The prosecutor said the premises on the Woodside Industrial Estate were targeted on the evening of January 27, 2017, when witnesses saw several cars being driven from the showroom at speed.
The following day, police searched property in Dunmurry and seized a number of items, including number plates and some of the stolen vehicles.
When these items underwent forensic analysis, Mongan was linked to them via fingerprints, and DNA found on a steering wheel.
Police went to the Dunclug estate seeking Morgan on February 15, 2017. He fled out of the back of a house, but was detained and arrested.
The prosecutor told Judge Miller the car theft was a “planned operation” and said the same business was targeted by Mongan and others later that year.
A defence barrister revealed Mongan has already been sentenced for the second theft in July 2017, and is currently responding well to a number of agencies working with him while he is on licence.
The barrister also said there were “no other matters pending, nothing outstanding” against his client.
Sentencing Mongan, Judge Miller said that while he accepted some of the vehicles stolen from MB Motors were returned, he noted the “huge implications” both thefts have had on the small business.
He also branded Mongan returning and targeting the same business twice in one year as “reprehensible in his part”.
Noting that Mongan is now engaging with probation and citing a “positive change” in his lifestyle, Judge Miller handed him a three-year sentence, which was suspended by three years.
Warning Mongan that if he offended he was likely to be jailed, the judge then told Mongan he was free to go – which prompted Mongan to give him the thumbs up and say “Your Honour, thank you very much,” the News Letter reported.