On 17 March 2017, six men were jailed for a total of 47 years after being uncovered as gang members who stole £3 million pounds worth of jewelry across a series of ‘forensically’ planned raids in the UK. As their sentences were handed down at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court, their links to the notorious Romanian Crime Academy were revealed.

A total of 11 raids were carried out across England between November 2015 and September 2016, including in Stratford-upon-Avon where 10 Rolex watches worth £160,000 were snatched, in Peterborough where five men with sledgehammers broke through the window of the jewelry store stealing £192,000 worth of diamond rings, and Bluewater in Kent where raiders drove their car into the shopping centre and set it alight before smashing through the window of the store and stealing £264,900 worth of watches.

The raiders often used sledgehammers and battering rams to gain access to jewelry stores following meticulously planned routines in order to steal goods worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in each heist before leaving traps for police and making their escape.

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Setting fires, sealing off roads, avoiding traceable cars and using push-bikes are all tactics this group have employed to help ensure their getaway, methods that were successful until recently. With detailed precision, the gang would stake out their intended targets, living in tents nearby to ensure they knew the exact movements of the staff of their target shops making sure there were no surprises.

The Romania Journal reports 26-year-old Vasile Daniel Cardos, 24-year-old Bogdan Costel Neagu, 20-year-old Silvu Ioan Acatrinei, and 28-year-old Andrei Florin Tifui, all originally from Romania, were jailed for eight years for conspiring to commit burglaries. Two further gang members, 25-year-old Cosmin Moraru and 24-year-old Ioan Bucuresteanu, were sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to commit arson covering a series of crimes across nine different counties in England.

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Jewelry stores targeted were often inside a shopping centre which had been closed and locked down for the night. The gang would smash their way through the front entrance before being seen on CCTV heading straight to the store of choice and breaking in. Within minutes the team had gone in and cleared the shop of their goods.

Senior officers investigating the crimes believed the evasion tactics and planning involved in each raid was suggestive of a highly trained group which most likely went through set training to ensure they could evade police and delay response to their crime scenes for as long as possible.  “I am of the opinion that this is from an organised crime group who have gone through some form of academy” said Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields the Daily Mail reported.

“We’re dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically aware.”

The Romanian Crime Academy is an organised crime group thought to have been dismantled in 2015 when 18 members of the group were charged with 27 burglaries across Europe including the UK, France, Belgium and Italy. The group had been known to police for some time and their attention seemed focused on carrying out near perfect heists on high value target stores.

An organised gang, members would be recruited from disadvantaged areas, orphanages and schools where the offer of money and membership to a group were more appealing. Once recruited, members were trained in forensic awareness, surveillance, and access methods to prepare them for carrying out high level burglaries abroad.

CCTV capturing the raiders in Goldsmiths, Oxford

CCTV capturing the raiders in Goldsmiths, Oxford

The use of electronic devices to communicate was limited to non-existent, making any communications and planning harder to track or be linked back to any group members. An organised gang such as this have put time and effort into ensuring they employ the best tactics to carry out the most successful criminal activity. Recruitment of members, training of members, and members following strict rules on communication were all part of the strategy to achieve their aims.

After the six gang members were sentenced, DS Claudia Musson from Derbyshire Constabulary who was part of the police network used to capture the men said, “The sentences handed down today should serve as a clear message that this criminality will not be tolerated.