17:36, 13 April 2012
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A 'parasitic' family of gipsy pickpockets who preyed on sleeping train
passengers and spent the profits on palaces in Romania have been jailed.
The Rostas family stole cash and mobile phones from distracted or 'vulnerable' targets on late-night trains between Charing Cross, London, and Gravesend in Kent.
The gang targeted at least 185 victims over two years, though police fear the true number may be well be up to 1,000.
Criminals: The thefts were carried out by the (clockwise from above
left) Romulus, 18, Marin, 25, Cornell, 22 and Robert, 23, along with
17-year-old Govinder (not pictured) who was named for the first time
Judge Peter Clarke QC today said the entire extended family were 'deep rooted in criminality', as he named and
shamed youngest gang member Govinder, after the media was banned him
naming him during the trial.Brothers Romulus, 18, Marin, 25, Romulus Govinder, 17, and Robert Rostas, 23, were today jailed after police traced £60,000-worth of stolen items - which they sold for a profit at British and Romanian markets.
The cunning thieves, based in Gravesend, Kent, used the proceeds
from the massive pickpocketing racket to buy gaudy palaces and a fleet of luxury cars in
their Romanian homeland.A 16-bedroom villa in Huedin, Transylvania, stands just a few streets
away from four other blue-roofed palaces, all decorated with the
Mercedes car emblem to symbolise wealth and occupied by members of the
gang's extended family.Robert was today jailed for 30 months
at Blackfriars Crown Court after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal
during a trial in February.
Romulus was jailed for 18 months and Marin for three years for the same offence.
Bad taste: The Rostas family built five gaudy mansions in their homeland financed by their racket here
Their cousin, Cornell Rostas, 22, was
jailed for three years and three months, and Govinder was
sentenced to a 12-month detention and training order. Both men had
pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to steal.Marin's
wife Andrea Ferencz, who has now been arrested along with several other
members of the family on suspicion of money laundering, left
Blackfriars Crown Court in a police car after spitting at a
Luminita Rostas, mother of Marin,
Robert and Romulus, screamed abuse at detectives outside the building
for several minutes, and insulted her nephew’s barrister for not
preventing Govinder from being detained.
Father Marin Snr, who was caught with 200 phones, was earlier cleared after prosecutors could find no evidence they were stolen.
Two female family members, Anna and Diana Rostas, were cleared after the
prosecution offered no evidence against them but the judge ‘bound them
over’ for 12 months.
The court heard Romulus, Marin Jnr, Cornell and Govinder also preyed on
tourists in pubs and cafes in Soho, Covent Garden and Drury Lane in
London’s West End.
Lavish display: The Mercedes symbols on the roof of one of their houses in Huedin, Transylvania, symbolise wealth
In several cases victims were distracted by the thieves’ offer of flowers or a Big Issue for sale.
Judge Clarke said: ‘It is depressing to see a family represented by so many members, showing such deep-rooted criminality.
‘I am entirely satisfied that the Rostas family generally were living by crime.’
David Hewitt, prosecuting, said: ‘It was a family affair. The case concerns a
large-scale venture carried out between June 2009 to August 2011,
whereby they targeted vulnerable people who were tired for various
reasons, travelling home late at night on trains.
‘The team’s motivation was to steal primarily mobile phones from these people.
‘Other members of the family have been arrested for money laundering matters.
'A not insignificant amount of money has been relocated from this country to Romania.'
A Manchester-based family member who has not been arrested was filmed on a
mobile in August last year selling the phones in a Romanian market.
Dodgy: The family deliberately left windows unfinished on this five-storey building to avoid property taxes
Footage showed the men entering rail
stations late at night and into the early hours, though none managed to
capture the thefts themselves.
Mr Hewitt said the gang routinely boarded at the back of their chosen trains so they could 'sweep it'.
He added: ‘They targeted people who are asleep, who might have phones on
them, or in their hands with earphones, listening to music.’
On January 30 last year, a plain-clothed
BTP officer spotted Robert, Romulus and Marin preying on a
sleeping woman who appeared to have been drinking on a late-night service between Charing Cross and Gravesend.The officer intervened after Romulus
sat next to the woman, despite the carriage being virtually empty, and
moved towards her open handbag, a BTP spokesman said.
The men were arrested and police
searches at two Gravesend addresses uncovand other items linking the family to thefts, he added.
Ostentatious: The distinctive luxury homes built by the the family - who
admit to robbing sleeping commuters - tower over the town in north-west
BTP launched Operation Weevil to
investigate more than 180 thefts on trains between January 2009 and August 2011.Detective Constable Tim Weekes, one of
the investigating officers, said the men were career criminals with
most having been arrested, charged or convicted for previous
theft-related matters.He said: 'They would identify and
target vulnerable passengers, who were sleeping or otherwise distracted,
before stealing valuables from their pockets or bags, predominantly
It is depressing to see a family represented by so many members, showing
such deep-rooted criminality. I am entirely satisfied that the Rostas
family generally were living by crime.
'The group would then leave the train, with the victim usually only discovering the items missing some time later.
'They worked in a co-ordinated,
structured and organised manner for two-and-a-half years, maximising
their opportunity to steal and minimising their likelihood of being
caught by frequently moving from train to train.'Mr Weekes said: 'The items we found,
with CCTV and mobile phone analysis, indicated that these men were
agents involved in a highly-organised conspiracy to steal, aimed at
generating as much money as possible to pass back to other family
members in Romania to buy land and property.'
Detective Sergeant Paddy Kerr, who
oversaw the investigation, said: 'It is a stark reminder to those
travelling on trains to secure their personal belongings when travelling
to avoid becoming a victim of this type of parasitic behaviour.'When the Daily Mail tracked down
relatives of the clan in the town of Huedin, one was eager to boast about the family’s riches. He said: ‘Yes, we are very, very rich family. We work in England, Spain and
France. We make a lot of money.’
He gestured to a five-storey house built with stolen cash, adding: ‘We have spent a
fortune on this. Well over a million euros.’The family deliberately left windows unfinished on some of their homes to avoid property taxes.
Parked outside the mansions were Mercedes, Audis and BMWs with English and Irish number plates.
The family also own another plot of land in nearby Calatele, where they are
believed to own more expensive homes.
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