Police tracked travelling burglary gang which targeted Chinese takeaway owners in an elaborate criminal operation
A burglary gang travelled to the UK from Ireland to target "rich pickings" from Chinese takeaway owner's homes by planting trackers on their cars to find out where they lived.
Terrence O'Reilly and his three accomplices took a ferry from Dublin to Anglesey last November then drove to North East England, where they had Airbnb accommodation booked for an eight day stay.
Newcastle Crown court heard the gang staked out Chinese takeaways and planted tracker devices on the owners' cars to find out where they lived.
The burglars then stocked up on training shoes, screwdrivers, gloves and a throwaway phone to be used in the planned raids.
But the court heard the police had been tipped off about the illegal scheme and were able to trace the gang's movements using the trackers they were carrying.
One take-away owner was warned by the police his home was likely to be the target of a burglary and the businessman was able to remove all valuables before it was targeted a few days later, while the family were at work.
O'Reilly, 22, has now been jailed for two years and seven months.
The three other gang members got away and are being hunted by the police.
Prosecutor Michael Bunch told the court: "They had travelled from Ireland in order to target houses on Tyneside where they expected there to be rich pickings.
"Knowing houses of members of the Chinese community often resulted in valuable items, they bought tracking devices from Ireland to fit to cars of those identified as running takeaway premises.
"Those devices would be used to identify the home addresses, to be targeted for burglary.
"What the men didn't know was the police knew, before they left Ireland.
"They also knew they would be using tracking devices."
The court heard the police were able to track the men's movements and identify potential targets using the tracking devices they were carrying.
Mr Bunch said the men left the ferry at Anglesey and travelled to a hotel at Heathrow and then to North East England.
He added: "The two trackers they had with them showed the route."
The court heard Chinese takeaway shops on the outskirts of Newcastle were targeted.
The gang fitted a tracker to a Mercedes car belonging to one of the owners, who was then contacted by the police and told his home was at risk of being burgled.
Mr Bunch said: "Arrangements were made for valuables to be removed and a video doorbell fitted."
The court heard a few days later the family, who continued to go to work and live as normal, received an alert from the doorbell device reporting movements outside the house.
Mr Bunch added: "They linked to footage on the mobile phone and could see a black car in the street and men loitering outside the address."
The court heard the police were alerted and the family travelled home, by which time the property had been ransacked by the raiders, who got away with just some Hong Kong dollars.
The raiders left behind property, including the throwaway phone and newly bought Tesco trainers containing traces of O'Reilly's DNA, at the Airbnb.
Judge Edward Bindloss said the burglary had been "carefully planned in advance" and was a "sophisticated" scheme.
Judge Bindloss added: "Police had been following the gang's progress throughout and had correctly identified the address that would be the target.
"They didn't know when it would be burgled but they suspected that it was to be.
"The owner had been alerted and therefore the rich pickings that were hoped for had been moved in advance of the burglary."
John Bottomley, defending, said O'Reilly was the youngest of the gang and has no previous convictions, unlike some of the others.
Mr Bottomley said O'Reilly was brought up as one of 14 children and the family has suffered multiple tragedies in the past, which resulted in him "medicating himself with illegal drugs".
Mr Bottomley added: "He falls at the bottom of this criminal organisation."