A Romanian crime gang that stole £400,000 worth of watches from a branch of Beaverbrooks and raided Breitling and Montblanc boutiques has been sentenced to a total of 47 years in jail.
Members of the gang set up camp and cycled to jewellers across England in a series of burglaries where they stole more than £3.1m of goods, including luxury watches.
The thefts took place over a 12-month period between November 2015 and September 2016, and included a raid on Beaverbrooks in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, where the gang made off with nearly half a million pounds worth of watches.
Sledgehammers were used to gain entry to the shop and a fire was also set to hamper the efforts of emergency services.
In June last year, the men raided Breitling’s store at the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent (pictured below) and in August the Bicester Village branch of Montblanc was targeted.
Additionally, branches of Fraser Hart, Goldsmiths and Ernest Jones were also victims of the gang, along with Chris Shan Jewellers in Lancashire and Poel Jewellers in Stratford-upon-Avon.
The raid in Stoke led the investigating team from Staffordshire Police to link up with officers from several other Forces after it was established that raids had also taken place.
Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields, of Staffordshire Police’s Force Safeguarding and Investigation (North), said the planning that had gone into the crimes was extremely detailed and carefully worked out.
“We’re dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically aware,” he said. “They went to great lengths and employed an interesting MO in an attempt to avoid detection.”
DCI Fields said the group could be linked to the crime academy in Romania as several of the members came from the same region of the country and employed similar strategies.
The Romanian Crime Academy recruits men and provides a strict code for its members as well as training in numerous techniques, such as avoiding being followed as well as understanding forensic evidence.
“They employed a number of strategies including cycling to the scenes of their crimes and cordoning off sections of road to reduce traffic and observers. They also pitched tents, typically two to three miles from the scene of the crime and buried their waste in a bid to avoid DNA being gathered.”
DCI Fields said officers across the country had “worked tirelessly” to achieve the prosecution. “This was a highly organised Romanian crime group who, thanks to great partnership working between all forces, we were able to bring to justice,” he said.
Six men, all aged between 19 and 28, were jailed for between six and eight years each for conspiring to commit burglaries at jewellers spanning nine counties.
A further man is due to be sentenced on March 28.