A gang - mainly from the Liverpool area - who stole articulated lorries and their loads, including more than £200,000-worth of Toblerone chocolate and £23,000-worth of whiskey, has been jailed.
Detectives said the six-strong group were “organised, professional” criminals who stole lorries and their contents to sell on.
These sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences - organised, professional thieves who stole lorries and lorry loads to sell on.Detective Sergeant Jon Saxby
A pallet of high-value whiskey was stolen from the trailer of one lorry parked in a haulage yard in Lydden, Kent, after a perimeter fence was cut between April 5 and 7 2013.
Later that month, a Daf lorry tractor unit without a trailer was taken from a haulage yard in nearby Whitfield. CCTV later revealed four offenders using an angle-grinder on the lock of the main gate.
A third theft took place six days later, on April 26, when the Lydden haulage yard was targeted again by thieves who stole a lorry’s keys and its refrigerated trailer with £201,000 worth of Toblerone chocolate inside.
Cloned number plates were fitted to the lorry before it was driven north to a haulage yard in Tarleton, Lancashire, Kent Police said.
Although the HGV was later found abandoned by police, its consignment of chocolate and the trailer have never been recovered.
Detectives found evidence the gang had travelled to and from Merseyside and Kent before and after the offences had taken place, often in convoy.
At Maidstone Crown Court, Lee Gilmore, 33, Graham Ascroft, 55, Jeffrey Hamid, 31, John Dahl, 44, Darren Price, 39, and Stuart Nicolson, 48, were jailed for their individual roles in the three thefts.
Gilmore, of Sidney Powell Avenue, Liverpool, was jailed for four years, eight months, and Hamid, of Hargate Road, Liverpool, got four years, six months, Kent Police said.
Dahl, of Aysgarth Avenue, Liverpool, was sentenced to four years, eight months in prison and Price, previously of County Road, Kirby, Liverpool, to four years, eight months.
In addition, Nicolson, of Bindon Blood Road, Whitfield, Dover, was jailed for four years and Ascroft, of Higher Lane, Holmes Tarleton, Preston, Lancs, for four years, eight months.
Detective Sergeant Jon Saxby said after the case: “These sentences reflect the seriousness of these offences - organised, professional thieves who stole lorries and lorry loads to sell on.
“Ascroft, it appears, made the contacts to sell the haul on whilst Price and others travelled the country to target hauliers to steal the vehicles and the consignments.
“Whilst this group made a quick sale, legitimate businesses and hauliers suffered greatly with property stolen, deliveries cancelled, excess payments on insurance and not to mention the inconvenience to their customers.”