The organiser of a string of burglaries that targeted various auction houses claimed a Klotz violin taken from a saleroom and then discovered at his home had actually been found in a skip.
It was in fact from a theft at Stroud Auctions in Gloucestershire on October 11-12, 2011, but Darryl Aldridge, 48, of New Barn Road, Shoreham, West Sussex, had argued that it had been taken from the skip by Anthony Fortune, who had sold it to him - thus creating an invoice.
The violin was found at Aldridge's home address on October 13, less than 36 hours after the burglary.
During his trial in February, Aldridge admitted the violin was from Stroud Auctions and that invoices created by Fortune for the violin and other unrelated items were fictitious. As Aldridge was convicted for perverting the course of justice for this offence, the courts separated Fortune's prosecution and postponed it to ensure a fair trial.
Fortune, 55, of Park Road, Worthing, had been charged with perverting the course of justice in relation to creating fictitious invoices for Aldridge. He appeared at Hove Crown Court on September 2, where he admitted to making a false instrument by means of fraud. He admitted that he had created the invoices for Aldridge and specifically for the violin and that he had not found the violin or sold it to Aldridge as he had originally claimed.
Fortune said that he suspected that it had been stolen by Aldridge and that he had created the invoices to help Aldridge move the property on. Fortune was sentenced to six months' imprisonment suspended for 18 months.
Aldridge was convicted in March. He had orchestrated a number of burglaries at various auction houses and private homes, targeting upcoming sales. He researched and selected high-value items which he wanted to steal using auction room websites. He would then send out his criminal associates armed with the information to commit the burglaries at the salerooms in Sussex, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Kent.
In addition, while on police bail for the eight auction house burglaries, Aldridge himself committed three high-value burglaries in private homes in Lancing and Brighton.
Following that six-week trial earlier in the year Aldridge was found guilty on all charges: three burglaries of homes, eight auction house burglaries and perverting the course of justice. He was sentenced to seven years concurrent for the auction house burglaries, three years consecutive for the three dwelling burglaries and eight months consecutive for perverting the course of justice - the total sentence was ten years nine months.
Aldridge's co-defendant, Anthony Townsend, 50, of Upper Lewes Road, Brighton, was found guilty of the burglary organised by Aldridge at Stroud Auctions in October 2011. He received a sentence of 18 months.
Townsend had also burgled a house in Brighton on December 26, 2012, while he was on court bail for the Stroud offence. He pleaded guilty to this and received a three-year consecutive sentence, leading to a total sentence of four-and-a-half years.
A third defendant, Kelly Lambert, 40, of Lavender Hill, Shoreham, pleaded guilty to an offence of theft at Toovey's Auctions, Washington, West Sussex, which again was orchestrated by Aldridge. She was sentenced to community service.
The charges followed an 18-month investigation by the Sussex Police Serious Organised Crime Unit.