Purpose — To explore and document the emerging international market for stolen tractors and plant in the United Kingdom. Whilst this may appear to be a criminological problem relating specifically to rural crime, it is a sophisticated international criminal business organised by traditional organised crime groups (OCGs) such as the Italian, Polish and Turkish Mafia’s in conjunction with a network of criminal entrepreneurs. Methodology/approach — Using annual statistical data provided by National Farmers Union (NFU) Mutual and Plant and Agricultural National Intelligence Unit (PANIU) and other material sourced using documentary research techniques supplemented by qualitative interviews with industry specialists we present 10 micro-case studies of rural OCGs engaged in this lucrative enterprise crime. The data is verified and authenticated using narrative inquiry techniques. Findings — There is an entrepreneurial dimension to the crime because traditional criminal families with knowledge of rural areas and rural social capital form alliances with OCGs. The practical utility of the NFU model of entrepreneurial alliances with interested parties including the police is highlighted. Research limitations/implications — Implications for research design, ethics and the conduct of such research which are identified and discussed. These include the need to develop an investigative framework to protect academic researchers similar to guidelines in place to protect investigative journalists. Practical implications — An investigative framework and the adaption of the business model canvass (Osterwalder & Pigneur, 2010) to cover illegal business models are proposed. Social implications — Suggestions are provided for the need to legislate against international criminal conspiracies. Originality/value — Uses a mixture of entrepreneurship and criminological theories to help develop an understanding of the problem from an investigative perspective.