Published: 12:49, 13 July 2019
| Updated: 12:59, 13 July 2019
Distraction thieves who stole mobile phones belonging to staff at more than 30 businesses have been locked up.
Beauty salons, doctors' surgeries and estate agents in areas including Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells were among premises repeatedly targeted by Maricel Stanescu and Ciprian Mihai, during a ten-day spree earlier this year.
The pair drove to locations, which also included Hawkhurst, Staplehurst and Maidstone, as well as parts of Sussex and Surrey, between Tuesday, April 16 and Friday, April 26.
One of them would enter a business or shop and distract a member of staff by addressing them in a foreign language.
At the same time, they would produce a leaflet which was used to cover up the employee’s phone. The leaflet would then be picked back up, along with the victim’s phone.
An investigation linked a Volkswagen Passat to as many as 35 separate incidents and the vehicle was stopped on Friday, April 26, as it was travelling into the Tunbridge Wells area.
Stanescu, 30, and Mihai, 30, both from Nottingham, were inside the car and were arrested.
During interview they denied any wrongdoing.
Stanescu told police he didn’t even know where Kent was, claiming when arrested maps on his phone had misdirected him away from London.
Appearing before Maidstone Crown Court, they both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle.
Stanescu was jailed for three years and Mihai was locked up for 18 months.
DC Tony Hatcher said: "It is likely Stanescu and Mihai both have links to an organised criminal network responsible for countless offences not just across the South East, but also in other countries.
"Their motive was to steal as many phones as possible in the shortest amount of time, moving rapidly between different counties and towns.
"They targeted small businesses, often entering private areas without permission and deliberately causing confusion by speaking in a foreign tongue in order to distract and steal."