A man that was involved in stealing lead from 15 church roofs has told courts that he was “exploited” by a gang, as a heritage group warns of organised crime against churches.
Madalin Gabriel Prundaru, 26, of Redbridge Lane East, Ilford, was involved in thefts that resulted in £461,000 of damage to St Nicholas Church in Walcot, and St Boltoph’s Church in Nowton – both buildings are listed.
The group is believed to have targeted 13 other churches across the Midlands. In total, the damage amounted to £1.25 million in costs.
Prundaru was charged with 18 offences, all of which he denied. However, he was found guilty on all counts at Lincoln Crown Court, on Friday, April 28.
Prundaru was 19 years old and had lost his job in a supermarket when he was recruited by the group. He was paid between £30 and £50 for his involvement in the two crimes.
Prundaru was remorseful for his involvement, the court heard, and lived with learning difficulties that had resulted in him being coerced by his elder cousin, who has already received a six-year sentence for his role in the thefts.
Gigi Prudaru was found guilty of 31 offences.
Judge James House KC said: “You followed them like a lamb and you were paid a pittance for what you did.”
"You were easy prey and it would have been difficult for you to stand up to your cousin and the others."
Madalin Prundaru was given 24-months of community service for his involvement in the crimes.
Mark Harrison, Head of Heritage Crime Strategy for Historic England, said: "The theft of metal from historic church buildings is a serious and organised crime.
“Removing large areas of lead or copper from roofs has a significant emotional and financial impact on those communities who care for and maintain our historic church buildings.
"This form of criminal behaviour can result in irreversible loss and damage, which is why tackling this problem is so important.”