A judge told Remus Tudorache, 27, that he could face deportation after admitting carrying out a string of devastating thefts in 2015, as well as being part of a gang which targeted others.
St Mary’s Church in Baconsthorpe, Norfolk, which dates back to the 13th Century, was the hardest hit as Tudorache targeted it twice – leaving locals fearing for its future.
A court heard his gang ripped lead worth £100,000 from its roof after the small band of parishioners fought for two years to raise £120,000 to fund vital restoration work.
In an impact statement, Corinne Youngs, secretary of Baconsthorpe Parochial Church Council, said the brutal blow had left the medieval church “crushed and devastated”.
Canon Paul Thomas, also from the church, said worshippers were “appalled and some were in tears” following the devastating raid after they’d worked so hard to help restore the church.
The villains were operating this year until the money-spinning racket was smashed when police swooped on four of the crooks after a chase near Wisbech, Cambs, a court heard.
Sentencing Tudorache at Norwich Crown Court, Judge Maureen Bacon said he’d been in an “organised, professional” operation.
Judge Bacon told the serial raider: “In one case it was so substantial it has affected whether the church can continue to be viable or whether it has to be closed.”
Tudorache, of Coventry, West Mids, helped by a Romanian interpreter in court, admitted conspiring to steal lead from church roofs between March and May 21 this year.
He also admitted being part of another conspiracy to steal lead from church roofs between April and May 2015 and stealing lead from St Michael and All Angels’ Church at Shefford, Bedfordshire.
Jonathan Goodman, defending, said Tudorache thought the cost of replacing the lead would be met by insurance, and that he had not realised the scale of emotional devastation he wreaked.
Judge Bacon asked that her sentencing remarks be sent to the Home Office so Tudorache might be deported from the UK and sent back to Romania when he’s served his sentence.
A Romanian thief who stripped over £100,000 of lead from the roofs of rural churches leaving one facing closure after 800 years has been jailed for five years.