A Romanian family of five was sentenced to jail on Friday, April 13 after being found guilty of picking the pockets of sleeping rail passengers on trains between Gravesend, Charing Cross and London. The four brothers and one cousin-in-law all pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to steal in late February and sentenced to jail for a total of ten years and three months.
The charges on the five men followed an investigation by the British Transport Police dubbed Operation Weevil. The operation probed the thefts of passengers on trains between Kent and London from January 2009 to August 2011. The four brothers are: 17-year-old Romulus Govinder Rostas, 18-year-old Romulus Rostas, 23-year-old Robert Rostas and 25-year-old Marin Rostas. The cousin-in-law involved is 22-year-old Cornell Rostas.
As part of the investigation, a British Transport Police officer in plain clothes saw Romulus, Robert and Marin Rostas target a sleeping woman on a late-night train between Gravesend and Charing Cross on January 30, 2011. The officer had become suspicious and got involved after Romulus sat beside the woman, even though the carriage was practically empty. Then he saw him move towards the woman’s open handbag.
It’s believed by detectives that the proceeds from the crimes were sent to Romania, where the men are from. Meanwhile, police financial investigations hadn’t been able to determine a legitimate source of income for the family. The group was arrested after police searched two addresses in Gravesend and found an abundance of evidence – including mobile phones, sim cards and other products that linked them to the series of train thefts. Police also watched more than 50 hours of CCTV footage and found images of them boarding and leaving the rail network when the offences were committed. It’s believed the five hit passengers at least 180 times to steal about £60,000 of property.
Romulus Govinder Rostas was sentenced to 12 months of detention and training; Romulus Rostas was given 18 months, minus the 240 days held in custody; Robert Rostas got 30 months in jail, minus 240 days of remand; Marin Rostas was ordered to serve three years in prison, minus 240 days already held in custody; and Cornell Rostas will serve three years and three months in jail, minus 184 days of remand.
Detective Constable Tim Weekes, an officer that investigated the case, said after the sentencing that the group of five typically operated on late-night train services between Gravesend and Charing Cross. They would choose vulnerable passengers for targets – like whose sleeping or distracted by other things – before stealing valuable property from their bags or pockets. They would mostly take mobile phones. Then the five would leave the train, and the victims usually wouldn’t notice their items missing until later.
Weekes added that this is a group of career criminals, and most of them have been arrested, charged or convicted for earlier theft-related crimes. They worked in an organised, coordinated and structured manner for two-and-a-half years – minimising their likelihood of being caught and maximising their opportunity to steal by moving from train to train. They know more than 180 crimes were committed and more than £60,000 worth of property were stolen, but these are minimum estimates. The real figures could be much more.
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