The stripped down Holden ute stolen from Warwick found by police.
The stripped down Holden ute stolen from Warwick found by police.

Police bust car racket

THE alleged ringleader of a car re-birthing gang which stole two classic utes during the Monaro Nationals event in Warwick last year has been arrested at gun-point by police on the Gold Coast.

Norman Dale Potts, 42, was caught on Sunday amid dramatic scenes near the Mudgeeraba Show, when undercover police from the State Crime Operations Command intercepted a vehicle he was driving when it was held up in show traffic.

Shocked show-goers watched as the police drew their weapons and ordered Potts and another man from the silver Holden Commodore sedan with New South Wales plates, which was towing a trailer police will allege was full of stolen property.

The arrest of Potts is part of a long-term investigation codenamed Operation Ice Puma aimed at busting a major stolen property ring active in the state's south-east.

Potts is facing nearly 20 charges, including multiple vehicle thefts, identity fraud and burglary.

The crime ring has been involved in extensive “re-birthing” of vehicles, boats, motorcycles and caravans, stripping down engines and other components.

Potts appeared in Southport Magistrates Court yesterday morning and was remanded in custody to appear for further mention on July 27.

Another man, Andrew Duncan Munroe of Beachmere, has been charged in connection with the Warwick thefts and others and was committed last week to stand trial on June 21 after a hearing at Caboolture Magistrates Court.

It is understood that at least one member of the stolen property ring headed by Potts may have links to outlaw motorcycle gangs.

The large tandem trailer being towed by the vehicle occupied by Potts on Sunday was seized and its contents are being examined.

A spokesman for the Warwick Police Criminal Investigation Branch (CIB) said yesterday they had assisted the State Crime Operations Command in the tracking down of Potts.

“This is a stolen property ring which has, among other things, been targeting muscle car shows and rallies across a number of regions,” the spokesman said.

“It is unfortunate they targeted an event in Warwick which brought a lot of people and economic benefits to the town.

“Sunday's tactical interception was a major step forward in shutting down this particular operation.

“Potts is believed to be the ringleader so it is a positive step that he is now in custody.”

The CIB spokesman said other vehicles allegedly stolen by the ring from around southern Queensland included Toyota Landcruisers, a Harley Davidson motorcycle and classic Holden Toranas, along with a caravan and a boat.

A quantity of white powder weighing around 500 grams and also alleged to have been in the possession of Potts is being analysed by police scientific officers.

The two utes stolen from Warwick last year were a metallic purple Falcon XY71 GT utility and a classic white Holden ute, which was in a trailer attached to a black 1995 Nissan Patrol 4WD wagon, also taken.

Both utes were worth around $30,000 each and were stolen from local motels under darkness in the early hours of the Sunday morning of the Monaro Nationals weekend, with the thieves unsuccessful in an attempt to steal a 1973 Monaro.

The white Holden ute was later found dismantled at a location to the north of Brisbane but the Falcon has not been found.

The CIB said at the time police believed the car thieves may have been in Warwick for a couple of days before the thefts, planning and making observations.

Some car owners attending the Monaro Nationals – which drew around 250 classic cars to Warwick – hired private security guards on Sunday night to stand watch over their wheels.

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