THIEVES drove to Chester and checked into a hotel before going on a raiding spree and stealing £5,000 from gaming machines in just one night.
Wayne Hawkins, Christopher Organ and Noel Lacey used sledgehammers to smash up fruit machines in a pub, a hotel and a bowling alley before taking cash.
Chester Crown Court was told the gang, who are all from Birmingham, checked into a Premier Inn in Chester, on February 6, 2012.
That night the gang was caught on camera ‘casing’ the Oaklands Hotel on Hoole Road and The Wheatsheaf pub in Overpool Road, Ellesmere Port.
Steven Bell, prosecuting, said the gang returned the next night, stealing £1,749.70 from the Oaklands Hotel and £1,913 from The Wheatsheaf.
Driving back to Birmingham, the defendants stopped off in Crewe and broke into Lakeside Superbowl before stealing another £1,400.
“All began to unravel when police officers watched CCTV footage from The Wheatsheaf and Oaklands,” said Mr Bell.
He said the footage showed the defendants acting suspiciously in the pubs and using mobile phones to film the fruit machines the night before the burglaries took place.
“The prosecution say they were clearly casing the joint,” said Mr Bell.
Police arrested 26-year-old Hawkins, father-of-eight Organ and Lacey, both 38, three weeks later following a car chase in Birmingham.
All three pleaded guilty to three counts of burglary, stealing £5,062.70 and causing £8,950.38 worth of damage.
The Recorder of Chester Judge Elgan Edwards jailed them all for two years, describing them as “professional criminals” who carried out pre-meditated burglaries.
“Three men with records like these don’t set out in a vehicle from Birmingham to Cheshire with the tools of the trade speculatively,” he said.
“This is a serious matter because the three of you quite deliberately travelled to another part of the country to commit burglaries.
“Due to good police work you were apprehended. You all have previous convictions which do none of you any favours.
“You were all in it together and you will all receive the same sentence.”
Rebecca Hill, defending Organ, said he had eight children and a grandchild and his family were about to be evicted as his home had been condemned.
“He has not had an easy life,” she said.
“This is a man who does not have really adequate thinking skills in terms of thinking about the consequences.
“His circumstances are extremely challenging.”
Jonathan Barker, defending Hawkins, said he was ashamed of his criminal record and had been trying to get his life back on track.
“He started to use Class A drugs, he lost his job and things started to spiral out of control,” he said.
Mr Barker said Hawkins had been locked up for the majority of the last 10 years but had experienced a difficult childhood.
Alastair Edie, defending Lacey, said the father-of-three had a “very bad history” of offending but this was due to problems with gambling.
Mr Edie said Lacey had spent all but 18 months in jail since 2006 but had now addressed his gambling issues and was ready to change his ways.
Both Hawkins and Lacey also asked the court to take further burglary offences into consideration.