Burglary gang foiled by leader's size five feet
A gang that burgled 76 homes - amassing a cash and jewellery haul worth £850,000 - was caught out by the ringleader's size five feet.
Catalin Zaharia, Constantin Stoian, Marian Molocia, Daniel Stoean and Florina Spiru admitted conspiracy charges after the discovery of an "Aladdin's cave" of stolen goods.
Zaharia's feet matched footprints found at burgled homes across the Midlands.
The gang members, from Romania, were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court.
Prosecutor Graham Russell said: "It was a well-organised and professional operation and this conspiracy appears on the evidence to have been directed from Romania.
"The guiding minds of this conspiracy were abroad."
The court heard two of the gang were caught on CCTV using bed sheets to climb into a house in Birmingham before lowering a safe to the ground.
Zaharia was eventually arrested from an uninsured car travelling on the M6 from which a bag of stolen jewellery had been thrown.
His DNA matched blood at a burgled house in Solihull, while his travel history showed he had entered and left the UK more than 30 times over three years with co-conspirators.
All five defendants were arrested at a property in Oldbury after a warrant was executed in December.
Mr Russell said of the items recovered: "I hope I don't exaggerate when I say it was an Aladdin's cave of stolen jewellery, some hidden in a handbag."
All five initially denied involvement but Molocia, Stoean and Stoian were linked to 13 offences by blood or fingerprints left at a scene.
Spiru was not actively involved in the break-ins but helped to launder cash and property, police said.
Examination of her mobile phone revealed an image showing her holding cash on a bed, and another of her and her partner in a BMW M3 Sport.
Sentencing, Judge Murray Creed said the conspiracy "had an international perspective - the court has heard about trips to Romania but there was also money laundering which involved countries as far apart as India and Spain".
The judge said the gang had caused "untold misery".
Sgt Sandy Thompson said they were "ruthlessly organised", adding: "We suspect other people from Romania were also involved in the plot and we are working with the Romania authorities in a bid to bring others to justice."
- Catalin Zaharia, 30, of Oldbury, admitted conspiracy to commit burglary and was jailed for eight years
- Florina Spiru, 28, of Oldbury, was found guilty of money laundering and jailed for four-and-a-half years
- Constantin Stoian, 30, of Smethwick, admitted conspiracy to burgle and was jailed for four years
- Marian Molocia, 27, of Smethwick, was jailed for six years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to burgle
- Daniel Stoean, 35, received a four-year sentence after admitting conspiracy to burgle.
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