MEMBERS of an Eastern European organised crime gang have been jailed after being caught red-handed – still soaking wet and covered in sand – with boat engines stolen from Rock.
The three Lithuanians were caught with the stolen property by police in Hertfordshire, just hours after the theft at Porthilly Beach in June.
At Truro Crown Court Marius Udrenas, 29, and Brucas Kestutis, 30, were each jailed for 11 months.
Tadas Siatkovskij, 20, was jailed for 10 months. All had admitted handling three stolen outboard engines and three propellers worth £22,400, which were taken from Rock.
The Wadebridge-based Marine and Coastal Policing Team helped secure the convictions, and PC Del Allerton-Baldwin from the team said organised crime gangs from Eastern Europe targeting marine equipment had become an international problem.
Two of the gang had travelled from Lithuania specifically to carry out the crime at Rock.
"The three males were stopped by police while travelling in a minibus," he said. "They were soaking wet, covered in sand and in possession of the stolen property and bags of tools necessary to commit a theft, all within hours of the property being stolen.
"The property was quickly identified as coming from Porthilly Beach by our Marine and Coastal Policing Team and the International Association of Marine Investigators, who conducted the investigation together with Bodmin CID."
One local boat-owner had been unable to run his business because his motors had been stolen, he said.
"The judge, in sentencing, made particular reference to the fact that two of the engines were stolen from a working oyster barge.
"The victim, Tim Marshall of Rock Shellfish, was unable to conduct his business, suffering significant inconvenience and loss of earnings.
"The judge also made mention of the fact that it was his view that Siatkovskij, while resident here in the UK, had planned the offence while Udrenas and Kestutis had travelled from Lithuania a short time before in order to commit the offence together.
"This is a major international problem, with Eastern European thieves targeting high-value outboard engines throughout Europe. Last year just shy of half a million pounds'-worth of outboard engines alone were stolen from Devon and Cornwall."
Mr Marshall has thanked the police team for helping to bring the criminals to court. "After the equipment was stolen we ended up having to hand-pick mussels which was very inconvenient, to say the least," he said.
"We had the stolen equipment returned to us and the Marine Policing Team did a very good job in helping to recover it."