A gang of Romanian shoplifters based in Northampton who operated all over Britain have been jailed and recommended for deportation by a judge.
All five “abused the country’s hospitality” according to Judge Peter Kelson by targeting supermarkets from East Yorkshire to Somerset within a few months of entering the UK.
One of the gang acted as lookout while others loaded the trolleys before they brazenly walked out of stores with goods worth thousands of pounds.
They were caught when an eagle-eyed woman in Doncaster spotted the five eastern Europeans carrying bags containing large amounts of items.
She watched them get into a van, noted the registration number and passed it onto the police who stopped the vehicle.
Officers found £2,770 of alcohol, DVDs and electrical goods in the boot, said Bev Tait, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court.
Bogdan Honceriu, 28, Marius Boncu, 43, and Madalin Dragomir, 20, admitted theft in Bridlington and Pocklington on the same day and all three together with Marius Tudoroiu, 23, and Ionut Burlacu, 26, admitted theft at Doncaster five days later.
The Romanian trio, all living in Lodore Gardens, Northampton, struck at the Bridlington Tesco on January 4 at 1.20pm stealing £800 of drink and later the same day at 3.30pm they raided Sainsbury’s in Pocklington taking more alcohol worth £1,000.
All five of the gang were involved in shoplifting at the Thorne Road, Edenthorpe branch of Tesco on January 9. Burlacu was the driver and the others were found in the van.
When arrested they initially denied thieving even when shown committing the crimes on CCTV footage.
The court heard Honceriu has five previous convictions for thefts in Staffordshire, Mansfield, Norfolk, Luton and Somerset and has served a 90-day jail term for shoplifting.
Tudoroiu, who only arrived in the UK last September, has three convictions for shoplifting high value goods from supermarkets in Berkshire, London and Somerset and was in breach of a community order.
Dragomir asked for two further thefts to be considered, stealing drink worth £1,088 from a store in Filey on January 4 and another £900 of alcohol at Scarborough.
Dragomir has previous shoplifting convictions in Surrey and Derbyshire and has been jailed, Burlacu has a caution for attempted theft in Northants last August and Boncu had only been in the UK for four months when he got involved with the gang.
“These crimes involved a high level of planning by an organised group of people,” said Ms Tait.
Michael Rawlinson, for Dragomir, said he was an economic migrant who arrived in the UK in November, 2011 and wanted to work but could not get a job and ended up sleeping on floors with other Romanians.”
He could not claim benefits so resorted to shoplifting. “His shoplifting allowed him to pay for food and the like,” he said. “It was literally hand to mouth.”
He now wanted to return home as quickly as possible. “He realises there is nothing for him here and he will not find a job or get permission to work,” said Mr Rawlinson.
Boncu’s wife back home faces being thrown out onto the streets. “He wants to go back as quickly as possible but fears it is too late,” said his barrister Nicholas Neale.
Azize Chelliah, for Burlacu and Honceriu, said no force was used although there was pre-planning. “They simply walked into the stores, took the goods and walked out,” he said.
Richard Thyne, for Tudoroiu, said he acknowledged the error of his ways and recognised the need to change.
Judge Peter Kelson said: “These were pre-planned organised thefts on a large scale. All of you within a very short time of coming into this country have embarked upon crime.
“You are an organised gang who have come to this country and travelled this country to carry out substantial thefts within a very short time of arriving. Detrrent sentences are required. For all five of you to have come from your own country and reward this country’s hospitality with these sorts of thefts is appalling behaviour.”
Dragomir and Honceriu were each jailed for 15 months, Tudoroiu for 12 months, Boncu for nine months and Burlacu for six months.
The first three will almost certainly be automatically deported after serving their sentences. Judge Kelson said: “I recommend deportation for all of them, to stop these men committing crime in this country.”