Shrewsbury fingerprint foils £24,000 jewellery conmen
Two thieves used ‘slight of hand’ to escape with almost £24,000 worth of jewellery and coins in a series of thefts across the country, a court has heard.
Among the victims was the owner of an antique shop in Shrewsbury, from where gold coins valued at £2,500 were taken.
One of the tricksters – Romanian national Mircea Rostas – was subsequently identified from a fingerprint recovered from items he touched at DCM Medals in St Mary’s Place earlier this year.
He appeared at Shrewsbury Crown Court yesterday where he was jailed for a total of 26 months for his role in the thefts.
The 26-year-old, who had only been in the UK since October last year, had admitted stealing the coins.
He had also pleaded guilty to thefts from seven other jewellery shops in Hereford, Gloucester, Newark, Durham, Oxford, Cambridge and Bristol between January and April this year.
Passing sentence Judge Jonathan Gosling said Rostas, who had been living in Birmingham, and a friend had set out to trick jewellers and deliberately targeted smaller shops with only a few members of staff.
“It was planned and sophisticated and you were aware other jewellers would be tipped-off after each theft and were prepared to travel across he country to steal where people would not be suspicious,” he said.
He said Rostas and his accomplice worked in a professional manner to deliberately cause an air of confusion to steal items by slight of hand.
Miss Gemma Gordon, prosecuting, said the defendant and his accomplice asked to be shown gold or silver rings, bracelets or necklaces which they indicated they wanted to buy.
She said they would then make a fuss about how the items were being wrapped or put in boxes – even showing the shop assistant how they wanted it done – which is when the jewellery was taken in front of the unsuspecting staff.
“Initially they offered to pay in euros but when this was refused excuses were made to leave to go to a bank to change the money to sterling.
"When they failed to return staff checked the bags or boxes they believed contained the proposed purchase only to discover the jewellery was missing,” she said.
In almost every case the scam was captured on CCTV in the shops and the incident in Bristol was put out on social media.
Following his arrest Rostas had accepted that he could be seen on the CCTV footage.
The court heard he had a conviction for fraud in the Czech Republic in 2015 when he received a suspended sentence and was fined for shoplifting in Germany in June last year.
His accomplice was being sought by police but remains at large and none of the stolen jewellery or coins have been recovered.
The court was told that Rostas had been living the Birmingham area with his wife and young child and had been working for a car valeting company.
Miss Lisa Hancox, for Rostas, said her client had shown remorse and was sorry that he had let himself and his family down, but had been under pressure to repay loans he had taken out.
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