British police have revealed how a “Romanian crime academy” gang stole jewellery worth an estimated €3.5 million in a series of “meticulously planned” raids on high-end boutiques across the UK.
Six members of the gang were jailed for a total of 47 years last month at Stoke Crown Court for conspiring to commit burglaries at jewellery stores in nine counties.
In CCTV footage uploaded to Staffordshire Police’s YouTube channel, members of the heist gang can be seen using sledgehammers to smash their way through the thick glass door of one emporium before helping themselves valuable items.
Members of the gang are said to have cycled to their raids in a bid to avoid detection, and even cordoned off roads leading to the shops they targeted with cables to stop police from apprehending them.
Sleeping in tents close to the jewellers they planned to raid, the men buried their excrement to prevent police from obtaining their DNA.
Vasile Daniel Cardos, Bogdan Costel Neagu, Silvu Ioan Acatrinei and Andrei Florin Tifui were each jailed for eight years and two months for conspiring to commit burglaries.
Ioan Bucuresteanu was sentenced to eight years for the same offence, while Ioachim Karp was handed a term of six years and six months for aggravated burglary and conspiracy.
The men were found guilty of committing 11 raids, during which they stole expensive watches, rings, necklaces and other items.
“They put tactics in place to deter our response when they were reported,” Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields of Staffordshire Police’s Force Safeguarding and Investigation commented after the men were sentenced.
“For example, setting cars alight on the route for the first response, putting cables across the road to prevent and deter that response, and [setting] fire to the front doors of [one shopping centre].”
“I am of the opinion that this is from an organised crime group who have gone through some form of academy.”
Field said officers discovered documentation that suggested members of the gang had been through a training regime to prepare them to commit the types of offences they carried out.
In November last year, the head of a group that was said to have been through similar training was jailed for 24 years by a Bucharest court after he was found guilty of targeting stores selling luxury goods across Europe.
Romanian national Adrian Botez was known as the “supreme commander” of the heist network, and was said to have overseen a gang of 100 professional jewel thieves.
Before joining the gang, prospective members were forced to supply the names and addresses of loved ones, sign a loyalty agreement and provide DNA samples prior to undergoing a regime of intensive training in Romania.