Two men who stole thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and watches from homes, including one belonging to a former Manchester United goalkeeper, in a “tourism burglary” spree have been jailed.
Jorge Pinto Vallejos, 27, and Jamie Duarte Vera, 40, both from Chile, were jailed for three years and eight months and three years and four months respectively, for their roles in an organised crime group which ransacked houses in Alderley Edge and Prestbury in Cheshire in the weeks running up to Christmas last year.
Cheshire Police said the men, who they described as coming to the country for “tourism burglary”, stole an estimated total of £170,000 worth of goods – which included a £30,000 Patek Philippe watch, diamond bracelets, shotguns and a platinum wedding ring.
They were caught after targeting the home of Polish professional footballer Tomasz Kuszczak for a second time.
Sentencing the two men at Chester Crown Court, Judge Simon Berkson said: “These were targeted, professional, sophisticated offences committed by determined criminal burglars.
“The offending that you were involved in is well organised and is prevalent throughout this country and indeed the world.”
Vallejos admitted five burglaries and one attempted burglary while Vera pleaded guilty to three burglaries, one attempted burglary and one offence of going equipped after he was found with a rucksack containing screwdrivers and tools.
Brett Williamson, prosecuting, said that in one house in Prestbury, burglars opened all of the family’s Christmas presents before making off with £44,000 of items.
The court heard Andrew Anson, whose home in Alderley Edge was burgled, described feeling “vulnerable” and “restless” after up to £25,000 worth of jewellery with sentimental value was stolen.
Kuszczak’s detached four-storey home in Prestbury was targeted twice by the gang, who removed a 100kg safe on their first visit, containing diamond bracelets and watches worth £80,000.
The burglars went back to the home, off Withinlee Road, on December 28 but by then he had installed motion detectors on his CCTV which they triggered when they entered the grounds, the court heard.
Mr Williamson said: “The defendants were seen running off from the address and the police helicopter tracked the defendants hopping through lots of gardens to try and get away.”
In a statement, Kuszczak, who has previously played for Manchester United and Birmingham City, said the burglary had a “huge impact” on him and his family.
Mr Williamson said: “He now pays for round-the-clock CCTV monitoring. His partner feels vulnerable when he is away.”
The court heard a statement from Detective Constable Louise Holman, of the Metropolitan Police, who said since 2017, 300 Chilean nationals had been arrested for burglaries nationwide.
She said: “These burglaries follow a pattern of targeting affluent areas, mainly in the winter months, where safes would be and the whole safe is stolen.”
Telephone evidence showed Vallejos had contacted others about sending jewellery and packages back to Chile.
Kay Driver, defending Vallejos, said he was born in Belgium but moved to Chile aged two and was raised by relatives in a “very poor household” before coming to the UK last October.
She said: “He wants to send apologies to the victims of these offences. He appreciates the damage his behaviour has caused to their confidence, their wellbeing and society.”
Jemma Gordon, representing Vera, said he also came to the UK last October in the hope of earning money.
She said: “However, he got involved in this criminality and he apologises for his actions and says he is very disappointed in how he behaved.”
Detective Sergeant Simon Mills, from Cheshire Police, said: “Their aim was to steal as many valuable items as possible before fleeing the area, leaving the country and evading justice.”
Both men will be deported after serving their sentences, police said.