A MEMBER of a gang that broke into the former Terry’s chocolate factory in York, to steal metal has been jailed.

Valentin Marius Florea, 26, and three others travelled with three vehicles, a chainsaw and other equipment for the midnight raid that ended with police catching the quartet nearby, thanks to a member of the public, York Crown Court heard.

Robert Stevenson, prosecuting, said they had piled pipe work, copper cable and other metal items stripped from the factory into a transit van and collected other items inside the building for removal before they were arrested.

“It became apparent the defendants had been surprised in the process of a burglary,” said the barrister.

Released on bail, Florea fled to his native Romania while two of his fellow gang members stood trial and were convicted.

But a year later, he returned to Britain, surrendered himself and today he is serving a six-month prison sentence. He has previous convictions for burglary in this country.

Florea, who used to live in Corporation Street, London, pleaded guilty to burglary.

Fellow gang members Ovidu-Ioan Veres, 32, of Kennington, London, and Gabriel Sandu, 34, of Claremount Road, London, both addresses as of 2012, were convicted by a jury in October 2012.

Veres was jailed for nine months, Sandu, who had no previous convictions, was given a four-month suspended prison sentence.

The fourth man charged with the burglary, Mahaita Constantin, 23, formerly of Plymouth Road, London, is still on the run having failed to attend court in July 2012.

Mr Stevenson said a member of the public spotted the gang at work at about 2.30am on Saturday November 19, 2011, and called police.

Officers found the gap in the fence made by the men to enter the site and Florea’s van as well as a Golf at the factory site.

They spotted the quartet in a Renault Scenic at 4.10am and were given the slip, but at 5am they relocated them and arrested them.

The gang had caused “considerable damage” but a development director for the site was unable to put a value on the metal they stole.

For Florea, Michael Smith gave no mitigation after the judge indicated he would give him a lesser sentence because he had pleaded guilty.