THREE prolific thieves who stole large quantities of diesel from articulated lorries across the Northwich area have been sent to prison following a five day trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The court was told that there had been an increase in these types of offences in early 2013, particularly around the A50 between Mere and Lymm and on the A556.

The thefts involved the thefts of 200 to 600 litres of diesel at a time from lorries whilst their drivers slept in the cab in lay-bys and service station car parks.

On Monday, April 1, police initially arrested Mihalache Covasa and Costel Durbaca, on suspicion of attempting to steal diesel from two heavy goods vehicles parked in a lay-by on the A556 at Bowden interchange both were bailed pending forensic enquiries.

On Friday, June 14, a passing Police patrol disturbed Costel Durbaca and Tudorel Durbaca stealing diesel from a lorry at Sandbach M6 motorway services.

Both made off but Costel Durbaca was found hiding in long grass nearby and Tudorel Durbaca was detained following a foot chase through adjacent fields.

Both Costel and Tudorel Durbaca were charged and remanded in custody.

On Monday, June 17, Police charged Mihalache Covasa in relation to conspiring to steal from lorries.

The three men were sentenced on December 13 at Liverpool Crown Court.

Mihalache Covasa, 45, previously of Oldham Road, Newton Heath, Manchester was found guilty of conspiring to steal from heavy goods vehicles. He was sentenced to two years six months imprisonment.

Tudorel Durbaca, 49, also of Oldham Road, Newton Heath, Manchester was sentenced to two years and six months in prison, while Costel Durbaca, 44 also of Oldham Road, Newton Heath, Manchester was handed a two-year jail term.

PC Mike Dawber, from the Knutsford Rural Neighbourhood Policing team, said: “They stole tens of thousands of litres of diesel from lorries parked up under the cover of darkness over a period of 15 months.

“They never thought about the consequences of their actions and on a couple of occasions they completely emptied the fuel tanks of lorries, leaving lorries and their drivers stranded in lay-bys and needing to be recovered to a garage.

“This type of theft is not opportunist, it is organised and has a massive impact on low profit margin sectors such as the road haulage business.

“We will continue to bring the likes of Covasa, Durbaca and Durbaca before the courts to prove that Cheshire is not a soft option for criminals.

“We will find you and we will deal with you robustly.”

The case was listed for a further hearing on Friday, March 14 in relation to the Proceeds of Crime Act.