A Romanian crime gang that wreaked havoc on the industry by robbing some of the industry’s biggest jewellery chains has been jailed for 47 years.
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.
Branches of Fraser Hart, Goldsmiths, Beaverbrooks and Ernest Jones, as well as a number of independent jewellers, were among those targeted by the gang during a 12-month campaign.
Six men, all aged between 19 and 28, were jailed for a total of 47 years for conspiring to commit burglaries at jewellers spanning nine counties. Their sentences ranged from six to eight years each.
The men were sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court for the offences, including a £400,000 raid on Beaverbrooks in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, which were committed between November 2015 and September 2016.
Jewellery, including watches, rings, necklaces and other items were stolen from the stores in a series of 11 raids described as ‘meticulously planned’ by the detective running the investigation.
Detective chief inspector Ricky Fields, of Staffordshire Police’s Force Safeguarding and Investigation (North), became involved in the investigation after a branch of Beaverbrooks was raided in the early hours of 10 March, 2016 in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.
A total of £400,000 worth of watches were stolen during the break-in.
Sledgehammers were used to gain entry to the shop and a fire was also set to hamper the efforts of emergency services.
DCI Fields said the group had set fire to cars and car tyres, as well as property as a distraction and also tied industrial cables across roads to block routes to emergency services in many of their burglaries.
The investigating team from Staffordshire Police linked up with officers from several other Forces after it was established that raids had also taken place at the following locations between November 2015 and September 2016.
– Fraser Hart, Milton Keynes
– Goldsmiths, Oxford
– Chris Shan Jewellers, Lancashire
– Beaverbrooks, Stoke-on-Trent
– Beaverbrooks, Basingstoke, Hampshire
– Breitling store, Bluewater, Kent
– Ernest Jones, Portsmouth
– Montblanc, Bicester Village, Oxfordshire
– Ernest Jones, Derby
– Fraser Hart, Peterborough
– Poel Jewellers, Stratford-upon-Avon
DCI Fields 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.
A further man is due to be sentenced on March 28.