Three Romanian men who were involved in stealing jewellery and antiques from nearly 40 homes around Ashford and Canterbury have been jailed for more than 14 years between them.
They appeared for sentencing at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday 27 September after admitting conspiracy to commit burglaries between October last year and 11 February 2012.
32-year-old Petru Ilian Lascar (aka Ivanovici) was sentenced to 4 years 8 months; and 34-year-old Cristian Vasile Tataru (aka Mario Iavicole) and 37-year-old Georgei Nicoara were each sentenced to 4 years 10 months.
The houses the gang broke into were mostly rural, detached properties. They picked those where owners were away or, in some cases, were elderly and had gone into residential care. Their haul was worth well in excess of £45,000 but owners could not put a value on many of the items stolen.
In February the gang was tracked down by Kent Police to a rented cottage in the Street, Molash, between Ashford andCanterbury. Officers executing an early morning search warrant found eight Romanian men and women in the property and recovered 200 stolen items from the cottage and from an Audi A6 car parked outside.
A house in Earlsworth Road, Ashford, which Tataru had shared with a former partner, was also searched and a further 300 items were found – much of it hidden in a loft at the terraced house.
Detectives then set about linking the jewellery, antiques, collectible items and electrical goods to the burglaries in Challock, Hastingleigh, Godmersham, Chilham, Romney Marsh, Mersham, Wye, Blean, Boughton Lees, Ashford , Bilting, Boughton Aluph, Smeeth, Sheldwich and Bethersden.
Home-owners came into police stations to identify their treasures, some of which they had not even realised had gone missing when the burglaries were first reported. Photographs of unidentified items were also posted on the Kent Police website in the hope of re-uniting owners with their possessions.
Detective Sergeant Rob Marsh said: ‘A team of detectives worked long hours to identify property from burglaries reported to police during the end of last year and the beginning of 2012 and I am pleased that much of the items we recovered will has been returned to its rightful owners.
‘It appears that these men picked a rural location where they thought they could get away with breaking into homes and stealing items that for many had huge sentimental value and were the result of collections built up over years.
‘Burglary can be devastating for many victims, particularly the elderly, and I hope that the sentences will bring a sense of justice to those that had their homes turned upside by men who were using their haul to fund their lives in the UK.