EIGHT men who committed a series of thefts of hi-tech machinery from farms across rural Cheshire have each pleaded guilty to 19 offences.
The individual gang members admitted 15 charges of theft and four of handling stolen goods at Chester Crown Court last Tuesday, and will be sentenced in September.
They are: Paul Edwards, 26, of David Street, Castle; Ben Gee, 20, of Clifton Drive, Leftwich; Shaun Higgins, 39, of Braemar Avenue, Northwich; Peter Illidge, 27, of Warren Avenue, Lostock Gralam; Jamie Meredith, 22, of Rookery Rise, Winsford; Liam McGuigan, 19, of Hesketh Drive, Lostock Gralam; Christopher Smalley, 26, of Fernlea Road, Marston and Andrew Devine, 24, of Meeanee Drive in Nantwich.
An initial charge of conspiracy to steal, levelled at all eight, was not pursued by prosecutors, and will lie on file.
Illidge, McGuigan and Meredith were remanded in custody for sentencing on September 18. The rest were released on bail.
Det Sgt Tony King, who led the operation, said: “This has been an in-depth and lengthy investigation, involving many hours of hard work by my team.
“These eight men have shown a blatant disregard for the law and for the property of others in rural Cheshire. Many of the victims depended on the machinery, vehicles and tools for their livelihood.”
Peter Illidge and Liam McGuigan will also be sentenced on September 18 for an attempted burglary at the £1m Delamere home of jailed loan shark Paul Nicholson, along with Anthony Lee Brown, 25, of Ashwood Close, Barnton and 34-year-old Matthew Tyrer, of Lime Avenue, Weaverham.