Carl Byron, aged 37, a former security manager at HMP Forest Bank from Manchester Road, Over Hulton; and Anthony Bradbury, aged 31, of Haslam Street, Bury, a former security analyst at the prison; appeared at Manchester crown Court yesterday after pleading guilty to theft and money laundering, following an investigation.
Bradbury’s associate, 27-year-old Charlie Corrigan, also of Haslam Street, Bury, but who did not work at the prison, also appeared at the court after pleading guilty to money laundering.
The three men had been involved in a scheme to steal valuable items delivered to the prison, including DVDs, box sets, computer games, consoles and accessories and a vacuum cleaner; before selling them on.
The court heard how as part of Forest Bank’s rehabilitation programme, the prison operates an “industry section” where prisoners can undertake employment for “modest payment”.
There shipments of items returned to stores by customers are received to be packaged for resale.
The shipments, initially books but later CDs, DVDS and other goods from the supermarket Morrisons and another large company, were sent into the prison in tote bags, but not accompanied with manifests.
And other than to check for contraband, such as cigarettes and knife blocks, the items entering the prison were not inspected or counted.
Prosecuting Mark Rhind said: “Arrangements were in that sense lax, they invited trust in staff at the prison and it’s clear that Byron and Bradbury took advantage of this and over a number of years they searched the bags for items that were valuable or saleable — especially games, DVDs and accessories.”
Once removed from the prison, Byron, Bradbury and Corrigan would sell the items on to people and at shops, including at the CEX exchange store in Bolton where Byron had an account.
Over at least 18 months the trio made off with an estimated £100,000 worth of items, earning Byron so much money that he stopped using his bank accounts and ATM’s and relied on cash.
The court heard that Byron had been working as the security manager at HMP Forest Bank, where he had been employed since 2011, taking over the role in 2015.
He had access to all areas of the prison and was also deputy corruption manager with access to sensitive information.
Mr Rhind said that before the case Byron was viewed as “very good, hard working and a well respected member of the team”.
“The utmost trust was placed in Byron and a high standard of professionalism was expected of him,” he added.
The court heard how Bradbury had been taken under Byron’s wing and in a text message he wrote that Byron had “made me from a boy to a man, the best thief in jail”.
The defendants regularly exchanged text messages discussing plans for thefts and items they had stolen, as well as using the prison’s own communication system to liaise and organise their crimes.
In the messages, the court heard, Byron and Bradbury would brag about finding “golden pallets” and having “more DVDs than HMV”.
However Mr Rhind described how Byron and Bradbury’s activities became known to an increasing number of staff.
In their texts the pair “discussed how others were involved and how it was becoming dangerous because everyone knew what was being taken”.
Mr Rhind confirmed that Byron, Bradbury and Corrigan had not acted alone and a number of other former prison staff are due to be prosecuted in connection with the crimes.
An investigation was launched into the trio’s actions in May 2017, and they were arrested one month later.
At the time Byron was found to have around £7,000 in cash and Bradbury was found to have stashed compute games and blue rucksack containing cigarettes.
The case has now been adjourned until November 23 for a trial of issue and sentencing. All three men were released on bail.