A family of five pickpockets who preyed on sleeping passengers on trains between London and Kent have been jailed to a total of 10 years 3 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal. All five, from Gravesend, Kent, were sentenced at London’s Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday, 13 April.
Brothers Romulus Rostas, Marin Rostas, aged 18 and 25, Romulus Govinder Rostas, 17, and cousin-in-law Cornell Rostas, 22, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.
Another brother, Robert Rostas, 23, admitted conspiracy to steal at a previous hearing. The four men had been remanded in custody while Romulus Govinder had been on court bail. The charges followed Operation Weevil, a British Transport Police (BTP) investigation into over 180 thefts from passengers on trains between London and Kent between January 2009 and August 2011.
Detective Constable Tim Weekes, one of the investigating officers, said: “Typically the group operated on late-night trains between Charing Cross and Gravesend. They would identify and target vulnerable passengers, who were sleeping or otherwise distracted, before stealing valuables from their pockets or bags, predominantly mobile phones. The group would then leave the train, with the victim usually only discovering the items missing some time later."
It is believed that the proceeds of the group’s crimes were sent back to Romania, while police financial investigations cannot identify a clear, legitimate source of income for the family.
On one occasion, as part of that investigation, a plain-clothes BTP police officer spotted Robert, Romulus and Marin Rostas targeting a sleeping woman on a late-night service between Charing Cross and Gravesend on 30 January 2011. The officer became suspicious and intervened after Romulus sat next to the woman, despite the carriage being virtually empty, and moved towards her open handbag.