Five men have been jailed and another sentenced for their part in lead theft from 14 churches across Lincolnshire, causing up to £1 million of damage.
A total of 20 churches were targeted by the Latvian crime gang who also operated in Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire.
It is estimated that they stole 70 tonnes of lead, which they sold for £70,000, but the damage they caused to the churches was more than ten times that amount.
Andrius Cereska, Tadas Andruska, Audrius Kvedaras, Vidas Andruska, Nerijus Razma and Vitalijus Vilkys took part in a complex operation, targeting churches and ripping lead from their roofs during night time raids.
The men, all from Lincoln, then sold the lead on at scrap yards.
Vidas Andruska was sent to prison for seven years, found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to steal.
Andrius Cereska, Tadas Andruska and Audrius Kvedaras were all sentence to four years, pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Nerijus Razma was given 22 months, found not guilty of conspiracy to steal but pleading guilty to theft.
Vitalijus Vilkys was given a six months suspended sentence for two years with 180 hours of unpaid work, after pleading guilty to handling stolen goods
DI Keith Blakey said: “This is a fantastic result for the people of Lincolnshire and it demonstrates the effectiveness of Lincolnshire Police’s Operation Brompton, which was launched to tackle metal theft in the county.
“These thieves targeted some of the most important heritage sites in the heart of our rural communities, causing huge amounts of damage to religious buildings and leading to a great deal of upset among congregations.
“We hope today’s outcome sends a clear message to criminals across the East Midlands and the rest of the country. If you attempt to operate in Lincolnshire, you will be arrested and put before the courts.”
St Nicholas, Fulbeck, Lincolnshire
All Saints, Holton-cum-Beckering, Lincolnshire
St Peter and St Lawrence, Wickenby, Lincolnshire
St Botolph’s, Newton, Lincolnshire
St Mary’s and All Saints, Swarby, Lincolnshire
St Nicholas, Walcot, Lincolnshire (two incidents)
St Mary’s, Sutterton, Lincolnshire
St Peter and St Paul, Algakirk, Lincolnshire
St James, Ab Kettleby, Leicestershire
All Saints, Asfordby, Leicestershire
St Nicholas, Lutton, Lincolnshire
St Peter and St Paul, Gosberton, Lincolnshire
St Margaret’s, Quadring, Lincolnshire
St Mary and All Saints, Kirkby Underwood, Lincolnshire
St Laurence, Norwell, Nottinghamshire
St Andrew’s, Asgarby, Nottinghamshire
St Leodegar’s, Wyberton, Lincolnshire
St Peter’s, Thorpe St Peter, Lincolnshire
St James, Little Dalby, Leicestershire
All Saints, Hougham, Lincolnshire