A Romanian gang was jailed today after carrying out jewellery shop raids around the country including Stoke-on-Trent, a court heard.
The six men stole £3.1 million in a 10-month crime spree with each raid lasting just a few minutes, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.
Ioan Bucuresteanu, 24, Vasile Cardos, 26, Bogdan Neagu, 25, Andrei Tifui, 28, Silviu-Ioan Acatrinei, 21 and Ioachim Karp, 19, took part in a range of burglaries, including one on Beaverbrooks in Hanley on March 10, 2016.
The court heard how the men, disguised in masks and dark clothing, used sledge hammers and crow bars to force their way into shopping centres and target high-end jewellers.
The gang, described as ‘professional’ and ‘organised’ by prosecutor Michelle Heeley, used tactics to distract emergency services when they were carrying out the burglaries.
The men ignited fires close to entrance doors to stop police from entering the same way, and would tie cables across roads to deter emergency services getting to the scene on time.
Prosecutor Ms Heeley also told the court how the defendants would stake out their targets before committing the offence and make observations.
“They worked together in well planned sophisticated burglaries,” she said.
The court was shown CCTV footage of the gang smashing their way through the entrance of the Intu Potteries in Hanley before running off in the direction of Beaverbrooks.
The footage then shows a man pouring two cans of petrol around the entrance doors, before setting it alight.
The men caused more than £12,000 of damage during the raid and stole more than £380,000 worth of jewellery.
The gang was also responsible for burglaries in Milton Keynes, Oxford, Lancashire, Basingstoke, Bluewater, Portsmouth, Bicester Village, Derby, Peterborough and Stratford-upon-Avon.
The raids, except for one, all took place during the early hours of the morning.
Defending Andrei Tifui, Ms Hatton told the court how Tifui came to the UK in the knowledge there would be an address and work for him, however he soon found himself homeless.
“Not knowing where to turn to he came into contact with others in the gang,” she said.
Judge Paul Glenn, hearing the case, said: “The effect of the victims must not be looked over. The effect on them remains significant.
“The loss of stock, cost of repairs, loss of business.
“These offences would have continued to occur had you not been detected.
“It ended because you were eventually caught, not because you withdrew from conspiracy.
“You are foreign criminals. Frankly, this country has more than enough criminals of its own.”
Cardos, Neagu, Tifui, and Acatrinei were all sentenced to eight years two months for conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit burglary and committing aggravated burglary.
Bucuresteanu was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to commit arson, conspiracy to commit burglary and committing aggravated burglary.
Karp received a jail sentence of six years for aggravated burglary.
(Pictured, left to right from top: Bucuresteanu, Acatrinei, Cardos, Neagu, Karp, Tifui)