FOUR men have been jailed for stealing heating oil from homes across South Derbyshire and North West Leicestershire.
The men were responsible for more than 20 offences as part of a crime spree that spanned across the two counties between September and December 2012.
All four had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to steal heating oil and have now been sentenced for their crimes at Leicester Crown Court.
Winston John Cook, 44, of St Matthews Avenue, Worthington, near Ashby, was jailed for 18 months.
Gary James Clifford, 30, of Siskin Close, Measham, was handed a 13-month prison term.
Matthew John Smith, 33, of Greenacres Drive, South Normanton, Derbyshire, was caged for 13 months.
Gareth Christian Evans, 36, of Checkland Road, Thurmaston, must serve 10 months for his part in the raids.
Detective Constable Alf Doyle, who brought the gang to justice, said: “Crimes of this nature have a significant effect on the victims. A typical oil tank holds 1,500 litres of oil and if stolen could cost £1,000 to replace.
“During these three incidents 20,000 litres of heating oil was stolen, to the approximate value of £13,000.
“The offenders made significant financial gains and the victims suffered inconvenience and disruption as a result of the thefts.
“This was a complex investigation which started at a local level with the involvement of the local community and PCSOs.
“From this we were able to identify the offenders and gather evidence which has led to these convictions.
“Since these offenders have been arrested the number of oil thefts has dropped dramatically. However, people should not be complacent.
“This case serves as a timely reminder to people who have fuel tanks to follow some simple steps which could help stop them becoming a victim.”
To report any type of fuel-related crime, Leicestershire Police has urged people to call 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.