FIVE men, who stole thousands of pounds of copper wiring from across the Ribble Valley, have been jailed for a total of 22 years two months.
Alexandru Beligan (38), of Perrott Street, Birmingham, Gabriel Predusca (23), of York Road, Birmingham, Marius Avram (47), of York Road, Birmingham, Mahai Antonala (27), of Stoneleigh Road, Birmingham and Alexandru Tudor (20), of Clarence Road, Birmingham, all appeared at Preston Crown Court on Monday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.
The five men received sentences of varying lengths lasting from three years four months to six years imprisonment.
Belgian was sentenced to six years imprisonment, Predusca was jailed for three years four months. Avram was sentenced to four years two months, Antonola was sentenced to four years six months and Tudor was given four years two months.
They were arrested in July by officers from the Central Motorway Policing Group in Staffordshire as they drove south on the M6 in a van and a car. The van was found to contain over a tonne of copper wiring, worth around £20,000 which police discovered had been stolen from the Ribble Valley.
The van was then linked to a number of incidents in Billington, Dinkley, Hurst Green and Downham after it was captured on CCTV.
DS Kathryn Cussans from Blackburn police said: “These thefts left hundreds of homes without power and were highly dangerous.
“By cutting into copper wiring, thieves are not only putting themselves at risk but they are risking the lives of the residents whose homes are connected to the power supply.
“I hope today’s sentence sends out a strong message that this type of behaviour will not be tolerated. We will continue to do all we can to target those who travel into Lancashire with the intention of committing crime and bring them to justice.
“I urge members of the public to report anything unusual or suspicious or if they notice their power has gone off.
“Any residents who see wiring on the floor in open fields should not go near it but contact police and Electricity North West who operate the local network.”
Lee Maxwell, Lancashire area manager at Electricity North West, added: “Today marks a significant milestone in our plight against metal theft which is still badly hitting our region.
“These five men had stolen more than £20,000 worth of overhead power lines from the Ribble Valley and caused major disruption to our customers. Thanks to the successful partnership between Electricity North West staff and the Lancashire Constabulary these men were caught and brought to justice.
“Although the men have been successfully sentenced we still have a long struggle ahead as we receive reports of metal theft every day across the region. This causes thousands of pounds worth of damage and affects livelihoods, critical health services and also vulnerable people, including the elderly.
“We urge residents if you do hear or see anything or your electricity goes off in the middle of the night please ring us so we can investigate.”
Anyone with information or concerns can contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. Alternatively people can call Electricity North West’s free emergency 24-hour number on 0800 195 4141.