Gardai¨ are closing in on the Sligo area in their search for a serial tractor fraudster.
The development comes after two New Holland tractors that were stolen here were recovered at the Cheffins Cambridge machinery auction in England last week.
In a bizarre turn of events, the New Holland TM 155 tractor that was originally stolen from a Northern Ireland machinery dealer ended up being recovered in an unlikely manner when it was inadvertently bought from the machinery auction by the same dealer.
Worryingly, and perhaps showing the level of sophistication that fraudsters are now capable of, the tractor had been given an identity change to the extent that the dealer didn't realise it was the same one that was originally stolen from him.
Gardai¨ say the fraudsters had fitted it with false 2007 Mayo registration plates, as well as changing decals and fitting different wheels. The tractor's correct year of manufacture was 2005.
Meanwhile, the tractor stolen from Enniscorthy Motor Company, a 2004 Wexford-registered New Holland TM 140, was also recovered last week at the Cambridge auction.
The tractor was spotted by an Irish machinery dealer who was aware of the thefts after a warning was issued in this newspaper.
The machinery dealer became suspicious when he realised the tractor's new, false model decal - TM 130 - didn't match its spec level, particularly the large size of its front axle.
The tractor also had its serial and engine number professionally altered, as well as being fitted with false 2007 Sligo registration plates. The dealer contacted Gardai¨ and the tractor was seized by British police.
Gardai¨ have confirmed that the incidents are linked, and they have again urged farmers to be careful when buying tractors.
They are recommending that you take the following precautions:
Check the details on the Vehicle Registration Cert (logbook) with the tractor serial/chassis number.
Check the year of manufacture; this will be stamped on the cab and glass and on other places around the engine.
Carry out a hire purchase information check through a dealership/bank.
Be satisfied with the identity of the person selling; if it's a private sale, it is not unreasonable to ask for ID and to note the registration of their transport.
Make sure any invoice/receipt you receive has a genuine VAT number and that it looks original.