A Sheffield dad who stole hire cars and transferred them through Dover and onto mainland Europe to pay off gambling debts, has been jailed.
Wieslaw Mirga, aged 38, originally from Poland but now of Sturton Road, Pitsmoor, went on-the-run for two years in his native country after he was initially bailed following his arrest.
Sheffield Crown Court was told Mirga failed to return three cars to two Sheffield hire companies and instead drove them to the Kent ferry port for transportation across Europe. He said he was instructed to do this to pay off £8,000 and if he didn't, his family 'would be harmed'.
The thief, who had a long list of previous convictions in Poland for robbery, battery, theft, fraud and 'organised crime' activity, launched a foul-mouthed tirade in his native language at Judge David Dixon after handing Mirga a sentence of four years and three months behind bars.
Judge Dixon said: "You targeted these companies due to their vulnerability and you took their vehicles. They place a significant degree of trust and you have broken that trust.
"There was a great degree of planning in these acts and this was a serious and significant set of offending all for organised crime."
Kevin Jones, prosecuting, said Mirga, who was disqualified from driving at the time, went to Sixt Car Hire on Broad Street West in Sheffield city centre on December 20, 2014 and hired a Mercedes car worth £20,000.
Mr Jones added the following day, Mirga returned to the same vehicle company and rented a Seat car worth £14,000.
Mirga hired a third vehicle, this time a Hyundai worth £15,000 from Avis car rental company on Ebeneezer Street in Shalesmoor. Like the previous two cars, he didn't return it.
"He was not acquiring them for himself but he was asked to do hire them in payment of a gambling debt that he had acquired some years before.
"The cars once hired were driven to Dover and placed on a ferry to France and the vehicles were handed over at the other side," Mr Jones said.
Mirga was later arrested. He was bailed but was allowed to attend his mother's funeral in Poland but didn't return for a court hearing back in Sheffield.
Vanessa Saxton, for Mirga, said the defendant feared the threats to harm his family would be carried out.
She said: "He has shown genuine remorse for the impact on the hire company and for the impact on his family who attend court today. They know he is in a very serious situation."
PC Neil Wickstone, who arrested Mirga on his return to the UK said: "Mirga had been on the run for two years before I was able to arrest him in February.
"He had committed a string of offences and gave no thought the impact him actions were having on others. However, he has now been punished for his actions and justice has been achieved.”
Mirga pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and fraud and one count of theft at a earlier hearing.
He is expected to serve half of his 51 month sentence in custody with the other half on licence.