SIX Mexican holidaymakers went on a burglary spree across the Lancaster district after they ran out of money on a tour of Premier League football stadiums, a court heard.
They targeted homes in Wakefield Avenue, Lancaster; St Christophers Way, Morecambe; Woodrush, Morecambe; and Church Brow, Bolton-le-Sands, as well as in west Lancashire and were also linked to break-ins in Strathclyde in Scotland and Cumbria over a six-day period.
The group had initially visited the country on tourist visas last October as part of their dream to watch their footballing heroes, including Manchester United’s Mexican striker Javier Hernandez at Old Trafford.
Apart from one married couple, none of the offenders were known to each other before they met in a London nightclub.
Several of them spent too much on alcohol during their stay and their British tour of sporting arenas evolved into an organised crime operation, Preston Crown Court heard on Tuesday.
They smashed open the front doors of properties and then ransacked bedrooms for jewellery, cash and electrical equipment.
The properties were targeted while the owners were out between November 16 and 21 last year.
The gang was caught travelling south through Staffordshire after their getaway vehicle details were flagged up by a member of the public who witnessed one of the raids.
Their haul was recovered, as were papers with lists of addresses and a satellite navigation system which mapped out their travel route.
A “significant number” of properties in the Strathclyde area were programmed into the equipment.
Police inquiries were ongoing but it was likely that unclaimed stolen goods had come from the Scottish addresses.
Juan Castillo Fernandez, 28, Cuauthemoc Fernandez Gomez, 30, and Manuel Garcia, 44, were all jailed for two years after admitting conspiracy to commit burglary.
Jose Vargas Gomez, 51, Juan Molina, 24, and Cristina Obregon, 22, were each imprisoned for 14 months after they pleaded guilty to possessing criminal property.
All six, who were living at Springbank Road, Lewisham, London, will be automatically deported after serving their sentences.
The Recorder of Preston, Judge Anthony Russell QC, said he would have urged their removal regardless.
He told them: “I would have recommended deportation because in my view your continued presence in this country - whose hospitality you have abused - is contrary to the public interest.”
The court heard all the defendants had been in custody on remand for 124 days and wanted to return home as soon as possible.
All were said to have no previous criminal history in their home country, including married couple Garcia and Obregon.
Following sentencing, Det Con Gareth Beaty, of Lancaster CID, said: “The vigilant actions of a passer-by enabled us to catch this gang who we believe may have been responsible for a number of burglaries across the country.
“The fact that these people are now behind bars, thanks to one quick phone call, highlights the importance of people reporting suspicious behaviour to us.”