Burglars targeted the homes of celebrities including Raheem Sterling’s Cheshire mansion.
Thomas Mee, 42, Vincent Ball, 52, and John Barlow, 58, burgled the homes of the Manchester City footballer and other wealthy individuals across the UK, a court heard.
The trio, all from Liverpool, admitted conspiracy to burgle at Chester Crown Court on Friday (July 31).
Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay’s house in Buckinghamshire was among those targeted by the gang, as well as the homes of Bury FC chairman Steve Dale and Mansfield Town FC owner John Radford.
Simon Parry, prosecuting, said: “These three defendants are a team of highly organised and sophisticated house burglars who have travelled to various parts of the UK, including here in Cheshire.”
He said the three targeted the homes of “high-wealth individuals” and used sophisticated techniques such as cloned number plates and “dirty phones” to avoid detection.
The court heard the defendants attempted to burgle Sterling’s home in Goostrey, Cheshire, on November 4, 2018.
Mr Parry said: “Fortunately the alarm system at the address activated and scared the burglars away. Nothing was taken.”
Ten days later, on November 14 2018, the three men checked into a hotel in Buckinghamshire and later Kay’s home, Horsenden Manor, was targeted.
Mr Parry said the singer’s housekeeper noticed an upstairs window was open and found a camera had been stolen.
A total of more than £550,000 of jewellery, watches and handbags was taken from 14 properties across Nottinghamshire
Worcestershire, Buckinghamshire and Warwickshire between November 2018 and October 2019, the court heard.
Photos of some of the handbags were found on the phone of Mee, who admitted handling stolen goods.
In a statement read to the court, Cheryl Batson, who had £146,000 worth of jewellery and handbags, as well as a Louis Vuitton scarf, taken from her home in Willaston, Cheshire, said she suffered anxiety and distress after the raid.
She said: “I have a heartbreaking feeling of loss over the sentimental pieces of jewellery which belonged to my late grandmother.
“I cannot stress enough the heartache I feel over having these items taken from me.”
On October 5 2019, the burglars were disturbed while in the Prestbury home of Mr Dale.
Watches worth between £300,000 and £500,000 were dropped by the intruders as Mr Dale’s son gave chase and they left the property with only a £10 note.
They were later arrested and items including balaclavas, binoculars, crow bars and cloned number plates were found in a car used by the men.
Officers also found £125,000 in cash during a search of one of Mee’s properties.
Andrew Alty, defending Mee, said it was the defendant’s case that the money was legitimate.
Recorder of Chester Judge Steven Everett branded Mee “ignorant and selfish” for posting a letter to the home of one of his victims to express his remorse.
Anthony Russell, whose property in Lymm, Cheshire, was broken into by the gang, said: “I only hope this is absolutely genuine but perhaps we would really have preferred not to receive this letter.”
Judge Everett adjourned sentencing until Monday.
He said: “These three defendants need to appreciate the effect of their awful actions on all of these people.”