Trio raided compounds and made off with JCBs, road rollers, an excavator, a fork lift and a dumper truck.
Cleveland Police Charles Tyers
Charles Tyers was jailed for five years and three months
An organised crime gang who made almost £500,000 stealing top-of-the-range diggers have been ordered to pay back just £1.
Lee Harris, Robert Mason and Charles Tyers were “at the top of a criminal organisation” which raided compounds and construction sites across Teesside.
They are serving prison sentences totalling 15 years after targeting just over £480,000-worth of plant equipment in 21 thefts or attempted thefts in four months.
Their case came back to Teesside Crown Court nine months after they received their jail terms under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
The legislation is designed to strip criminals of assets gained through crime, reports the Gazette.
It was agreed by lawyers that the three made £480,419 from crime. But they had little or nothing available to pay.
Cleveland Police Lee Harris
Lee Harris was jailed for five-and-a-half years for conspiracy to steal and attempted theft
All three were ordered to hand over a tiny fraction of their ill-gotten gains.
Mason, 38, of Norton, and Harris, 46, of Stockton, must pay a nominal sum of £1.
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Tyers, 39, of Thornaby, was ordered to pay £510 – money already in police hands after it was seized from a vehicle footwell.
Judge Simon Phillips QC made the confiscation orders, saying the men had three months to pay the sums or spend further days in prison.
Under the legislation, the authorities can try to recover more of the £480,000 later if they learn the men have come into money or assets.
The gang went after vehicles worth up to £70,000 including JCBs, road rollers, excavators, diggers, an excavator, a telehandler, a fork lift and a dumper truck.
They invaded sites in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Eaglescliffe, Wynyard, Billingham, Ingleby Barwick, Loftus and County Durham.
Cleveland Police Robert Mason
Robert Mason was jailed for five years for conspiracy to steal
The leading trio halted the crime spree only for a two-week Christmas holiday to Egypt, the court heard last October.
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One of the thieves wore a hard hat and high-visibility vest as he reversed a stolen roller on to a trailer.
A lock was drilled out of a £30,000 digger to steal it from a housing development.
The thefts caused “potentially disastrous” delays. The loss of a road roller cost one site £30,000.
A farmer told how he felt vulnerable and angry after the theft of a £7,000 fork lift, which had massive financial implications.
The crimes between November 2013 and March 2014 sent victims’ insurance premiums soaring by as much as £30,000.
Tyers was jailed for five years and three months, Harris five-and-a-half years, Mason five years after they admitted conspiracy to steal.