Two men have been jailed for a total of 17 years after being found guilty of conspiracy to burgle – crimes which a judge said had cast a “dark shadow” over the Latvian community.

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Oskar Beitans and Juijs Kazacoks denied the charge at Norwich Crown Court.

But the jury, following a two-and-a-half week trial, convicted them of being involved in 82 burglaries across Norfolk, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

The trial heard how over a three-and-a-half month period the two men were part of a gang which fanned out from the Wisbech area acting in what the judge described as like a “plague of locusts”, targeting homes of elderly people living in bungalows and stealing valuables, mainly cash and jewellery. The total value of the burglary haul was estimated at £160,000.

Beitans, 25, of Victoria Road, Wisbech, was sentenced to 10 years. Kazacoks, 23, of Syralense, King’s Lynn, was jailed for seven.

Sentencing them, Judge Nicholas Coleman said the men had played an equal part in the crimes.

He told them: “You are both from Latvia. Your conduct and that of your friends who have admitted their guilt has in my judgment cast a dark shadow over the reputation of the people of Latvia, who are good, honest citizens who come to this country genuinely intending to better themselves.”

He said on one night alone on September 13 they had carried out a series of burglaries around Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall area and he said they were like “maurauding thieves”.

Judge Coleman said that he had read the impact statements from the victims, most of whom were elderly, and said: “It is impossible to do justice to the misery you caused.”

He said as the defendants came from a different country they might not have appreciated that the type of homes they targeted were often occupied by elderly people.

He said upon their arrest the number of burglaries in the area dropped to virtually zero. He said that Beitans was already wanted on an arrest warrant wanting him to return to Latvia and said that a transcript of his sentencing comments would be sent to the UK Border Agency.

Another gang member was jailed last week. Artur Skrabo, 18, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to one count of burglary in September 2011 at Windsor Rise, Hunstanton, where jewellery and electric equipment were stolen, and another of attempted burglary in September 2011, at Lynn Road, Snettisham.

Skrabo was sentenced to 18 months custody for the burglary, and 15 months for the attempted burglary, to run concurrently.

Three other gang members are still waiting to be dealt with by the courts.

chris.bishop@archant.co.uk

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