Two men have been jailed for a total of six years after they posed as police officers to steal from London tourists.
Florin Ionita, aged 31 of no fixed abode, and Laurentiu Ionita, aged 47 of no fixed abode pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court to ten offences of conspiracy to steal and each received a sentence of three years.
Between August and October 2016, a number of robberies and thefts were committed against tourists in central London whereby men acting as plain clothed police officers were targeting tourists in order to steal.
In September, Westminster Crime Squad launched Operation Masterton in order to identify the people responsible. As part of the operation, officers located a vehicle in New Cavendish Street, W1 on the evening of Sunday, October 23.
The car was followed to the W2 area where Florin Ionita left the vehicle and engaged two Chinese tourists in conversation about directions.
While Florin spoke to the tourists, Laurientu Ionita approached the group and accused them of drug dealing. He produced a fake warrant card and demanded he search them. As this happened, Westminster Crime Squad officers intervened and detained Florin.
Laurientu made off and assaulted officers prior to being detained. The investigation linked them to similar incidents where tourists were robbed and stolen from, dating back to October 2015 in Westminster and Camden.
They were both charged on Monday, 24 October with conspiracy to steal, encompassing 10 offences across central London. Laurentiu was also charged with two counts of assault on police which was ordered to lie on file.
Detective Sergeant Vince Abrahart from Westminster Crime Squad said: “I am pleased that following an intelligence led operation these men have been handed down custodial sentences. They deliberately preyed on innocent tourists unfamiliar with police procedures in the UK, turning what should have been an enjoyable visit for them into a nightmare.
“While Westminster Crime Squad will continue to target such offences in Westminster and beyond – we urge all members of the public to check the ID of all persons purporting to be in authority, be this police or people from utility companies. If you are concerned that they are not genuine then phone police immediately.”