Gang steals '£160,000 worth of items' after targeting Asda stores across Lancashire
A Romanian crime gang who stole more than £160,000 worth of items from supermarkets across the UK have been jailed.
The offenders, who distracted security staff by intentionally activating alarm systems, were captured on CCTV footage shamelessly plundering supermarket shelves.
Striking at least 81 times at stores across the UK - including Blackpool, Fleetwood, Accrington and Rawtenstall - the gang made off with goods worth more than £160,000.
They specifically stole high value items such as printer cartridges, razor blades, nappies and cosmetics, which they would then sell on.
Nicolea Ilea, 36, Alin Mahai, 27, Florin Costea, 51, Stefan Florin, 31, Marius Meiosu, 25, and Gabriel Mocanu, 36, subsequently appeared at Chester Crown Court on Tuesday, April 13.
They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and were sentenced to 42 months in jail.
Following their sentencing, DC Paul Matchett, of the Northwich Beat Initiative Team, said: "It is clear that this gang travelled to the UK with the sole intention of committing crime.
"They set up their base in Oldham and from there they travelled to stores across the UK and stole hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of items.
"They believed that they could evade justice by spreading their crimes across the country in a bid to keep a low profile.
"While their plan worked initially, they underestimated the partnership work between the police and the business community and they are now behind bars facing the consequences of their actions."
Their crime spree began when Mahai and Ilie targeted the Asda Great Bridge Supercentre in Tipton on April 29, 2019.
Over the next four months, Mocanu, Meiosu, Florin and Costea joined the gang.
But police said their downfall began after they stole approximately £1,000 worth of items from the Asda Barons Quay store in Northwich in June 2019.
Following the theft, Asda’s Asset Protection team reported the incident Cheshire Police.
Over the next two months, detectives from the Northwich Beat Initiative Team worked closely with Asda’s Asset Protection team and the National Business Crime Centre.
Using CCTV footage, ANPR camera's and credit card data, they were able to identify the gang members and link them to at least 80 other incidents across the country.
After gathering "extensive evidence", Meiosu, Costea and Mocanu were arrested following a raid at an address in Darwin Street, Oldham, on September 10.
During the warrant, officers recovered a number of stolen items including perfume, alcohol, more than 50 razors and thousands of children’s nappies.
They also seized three cars which the gang had been using to commit their crimes
Ilea, Florin and Mahai were also arrested over the following months and all six men were later charged with conspiracy to steal.
Senior Crown Prosecutor Daryl Pollard of the CPS said: "These serial criminals targeted various Asda stores throughout the UK hoping to operate under the radar, stealing £160,000 of goods from supermarkets to sell on.
"We were able to unravel their crimes by carefully evaluating CCTV footage and analysing credit card transactions.
"We worked very closely with the police and stores to bring these criminals to justice."
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