HIGHLY organised members of a criminal gang have been jailed for 47 years after raiding a jewellers in Portsmouth in a series of heists.
The Romanian gang stole £3.1m worth of property in the raids that saw them setting up camps and cycling to the targeted stores.
It comes after seven men smashed a glass door to the rear entrance to Cascades Shopping Centre, in Charlotte Street, last year and raided Ernest Jones.
They started a fire by the door, and set fires to tyres in a distraction bid.
The men also put a chain between shutters and a bench in the way to block access.
Sledgehammers and rucksacks were left at the scene after the 2.49am burglary, with £57,860 of luxury watches stolen on July 26 last year.
We’re dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically awareDCI Ricky Fields
The men were thought to have escaped through the clothes shop Wallis, with a lone security guard on duty at the shopping centre.
Now six men have been jailed for a combined total of 47 years for conspiring to commit burglaries at jewellers across nine counties.
The men were jailed at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court for the burglaries, including a £400,000 raid on Beaverbrooks in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, which were committed between November 2015 and September 2016.
Click here to see dramatic CCTV footage of the burglary at the Stoke-on-Trent shopping centre
Jewellery, including watches, rings, necklaces and other items were stolen from branches of Beaverbrooks, Fraser Hart, Goldsmiths and independent jewellers in a series of 11 raids described as ‘meticulously planned’ by the detective in charge.
Detective Chief Inspector Ricky Fields said the gang could be linked to the Romanian Crime Academy, which trains thieves.
He said: ‘We’re dealing with a group of individuals who are extremely organised and forensically aware.
‘They went to great lengths and employed an interesting MO in an attempt to avoid detection.
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.
DCI Fields added: ‘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.
‘This is a complex investigation which spans other police force areas including Thames Valley, Hampshire, Kent, Cambridgeshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire and Warwickshire and was supported by the National Crime Agency and West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit and Romanian authorities.
‘This was a highly organised Romanian crime group who, thanks to great partnership working between all forces, we were able to bring to justice. Police officers across the country have worked tirelessly and diligently to achieve this result in court.’
Another man is due to be sentenced on March 28.
The men jailed for conspiracy to commit burglaries were:
• Bogdan Costel Neagu, 24, of no fixed address, sentenced to eight years two months.
• Ioan Bucuresteanu, 24, of no fixed address, sentenced to eight years.
• Vasile Daniel Cardos, 26, of Halesowen Street, Rowley Regis, West Midlands, sentenced to eight years two months.
• Silvu Ioan Acatrinei, 20, no fixed address, sentenced to eight years two months.
• Andrei Florin Tifui, 28, of no fixed address, sentenced to eight years two months.
Another man, Ioachim Karp, aged 19, of no fixed address, was sentenced to six years six months for aggravated burglary and conspiracy.
The full list of jewellers raided is:
• Fraser Hart, Milton Keynes – November, 21 2015.
• Goldsmiths, Oxford – December 31, 2015.
• Chris Shan Jewellers, Lancashire – February 9, 2016.
• Beaverbrooks, Stoke-on-Trent – March 10, 2016.
• Beaverbrooks, Basingstoke, Hampshire – April 7, 2016.
• Breitling store, Bluewater, Kent – June 20, 2016.
• Ernest Jones, Portsmouth – July 26, 2016.
• Montblanc, Bicester Village, Oxfordshire – August 5, 2016.
• Ernest Jones, Derby – August 23, 2016.
• Fraser Hart, Peterborough – August 25, 2016.
• Poel Jewellers, Stratford-upon-Avon – September 7, 2016.