‘Tech thieves’ on trial at Kingston Crown Court

Romanian thieves who stole hundreds of laptops, phones and iPads from warehouses across the UK were caught when one of them mistakenly left a balaclava on the roof, Kingston Crown Court heard on 20 February.

The alleged offences took place between 1 December 2016 and 25 June 2019. They are: conspiracy to commit burglary, conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property and handling stolen goods.

The prosecution was led by lead councillor Catherine Farrelly and junior councillor Charlotte Hole.

In one [warehouse] burglary, £250,000 worth of notebook laptops were stolen, when the thieves entered through the roof by making holes in a skylight,” said Farrelly.

It is alleged that in late 2017 the gang changed its habits and instead of stealing technology equipment, targeted more personal items, including cufflinks, which the gang is alleged to have sold online.

It was in St Albans that, following a burglary, police officers found a vital piece of evidence for the prosecution: a balaclava, on the roof.

Upon examination, it was found to have DNA which was matched to the youngest gang member, Vasille Ionel Paragina.

The court heard that the gang’s luck finally ran out in Romania, when Romanian police officers discovered two stolen iPads and laptops in their van, which the police identified from the serial numbers as some of those stolen from the UK.

Police later found images of handwritten lists on their phones, which included numbers that corresponded with the companies which had been burgled.

The police also viewed text messages between the gang members, including one which read: “Want more laptops 100”.

The accused are Gavril Popinciuc, 45, unemployed and of no fixed abode. Popinciuc is charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property. He pleaded guilty to the first charge and not guilty to the second charge.

Vasille Ionel Paragina, 27, unemployed and of no fixed abode, has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Marian Albu, 41, unemployed, of Newton Road, Harrow. Albu has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Traian Mihulca, 31, unemployed and of no fixed abode, has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Marian Mamaliga, 33, unemployed and of no fixed abode has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Ilie Ungureanu, 36, unemployed and of no fixed abode. Ungureanu has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Liviu Leahu, 38, unemployed and of no fixed abode has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglaries and conspiracy to conceal, convert, disguise, transfer and remove criminal property, pleaded not guilty.

Mohammed Enus, 52, unemployed, of Flat 8, Chyngton Court, Harrow, has been charged with handling stolen goods, pleaded not guilty.

The accused remained silent throughout the proceedings and were assisted by translators.

The trial continues.