International organised crime group sentenced after found to have stolen more than £200,000-worth vans following raid of Newark lock-up
An international organised crime group were found to have stolen more than £200,000-worth of vans after police raided a lock-up in Newark.
The group, who carried out a sophisticated international crime spree, have been sentenced.
They stole at least 20 Mercedes Sprinter vans over a five-month period from outside people’s homes in Nottinghamshire and across the country, often impacting on self-employed tradespeople, before shipping them to Romania whole or in parts.
The group’s elaborate plan came tumbling down in October 2020 as police raided a lock-up in Quarry Farm, Newark.
They found a treasure trove of stolen goods, including Mercedes van engines and axles from an additional nine vans which had been stolen from around the UK in 2019 and 2020, and were due to be shipped abroad.
Cristian Cirpaci, of Rothesay Avenue, Radford, spearheaded the operation alongside Andrius Stasiunas, of Wye Gardens, Radford, in which around £100,000-worth of tools and personal items were stolen from inside the vans.
Targeting self-employed contractors with the tools still inside their vehicles, Cirpaci and Stasiunas, alongside three other members of the Cirpaci family and another man, carried out the five-month crime spree from June 2020 until October 2020 — stealing the vans in the middle of the night.
The gang was able to steal the vans without even needing keys and could also block GPS trackers.
Their plans were rumbled after police spotted the vehicles being driven in convoy using the same Audi A4 and a BMW, both connected to Stasiunas and Cristian Cirpaci — who were the brains behind breaking into the vehicles and disabling the trackers.
Three members of the group were also found to have breached their bail conditions as they continued to steal vans even after being arrested on suspicion of carrying out the sophisticated operation.
Appearing at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday (Tuesday), Christian Cirpaci, 25, was jailed for three years and nine months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal motor vehicles.
He was deemed to be one of the main organisers of the conspiracy and rented the lock-up in Newark with evidence showing he participated in the theft of at least nine vans.
Technical expert Andrius Stasiunas, 37, another of the main organisers, was sentenced to four years in custody after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal motor vehicles.
Leonardo Cirpaci, 19, of Rothesay Avenue, pleaded guilty to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property and was sentenced to one year and four months in custody.
Uncle of Cristian, Daniel Cirpaci, 42, of Radford Road, received a 12-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and 180 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property.
Cousin Stefano Cirpaci, 19, of Radford Road, received an 18-month community order and 100 hours unpaid work after pleading guilty to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property.
Brother-in-law to Cristian, Alexandru Covaci, 25, also of Rothesay Avenue, was sentenced to one year and four months in custody after he pleaded guilty to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property.
The group took the scrap carcasses of the vans to a nearby scrap yard and they were weighed in to a total of nearly £5,000.
After police visited the home of the Cirpaci family at an address in Lenton, on October 3, 2020, Stasiunas, Christian Cirpaci and Leonardo Cirpaci were arrested and released on police bail with conditions to abide by a curfew and not to associate with one another (Cirpaci family excluded).
Police seized the BMW and Audi the group then used a Kia Rio to carry on with their elaborate plan even while on bail.
Three weeks later on October 28, 2020, as the thieves loaded up two HGVs full of Mercedes parts destined for Romania, officers swooped in and stopped the two lorries in convoy in Grantham.
At the same time five members of the group were also arrested at the lock-up.
Stasiunas was found trying to flee to his home country of Lithuania at Doncaster airport on October 29, 2020, with his suitcase full of electronic equipment used to steal the vans.
A receipt for 10,000 euros was also found on Covaci, who was on statutory sick-pay in the UK at the time and had no other source of legitimate income.
Detective Constable Richard Doel, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “This was a complex and in-depth investigation which utilised a number of different policing tactics.
“This group inflicted misery on many hard working people around the country. The offenders have shown no remorse for their victims, many of whom relied on their vans and the tools within, for their livelihood.
“We welcome these sentences handed down by the court today and hope it gives them all time to reflect on their actions and the impact it had on self-employed people and their businesses, as well as the emotional turmoil caused.”