Gang of thieves from Oldham struck at Asda stores across the UK

A gang of thieves operating from Oldham targeted supermarkets across the country and stole more than £160,000 worth of products.

Six men have all been jailed for more than three years, for a campaign of thefts from Asda supermarkets across the UK.

Three of them were arrested at a house in Darwin Street, Oldham, where police discovered some of their loot which included thousands of nappies, perfume, alcohol and more than 50 razors.

The gang would intentionally set off the supermarket’s security alarm to distract security officers, and leave with the stolen goods.

The gang struck at least 81 times, at stores in Oldham, Bury, Bolton and Wigan, but also further afield in Scotland and Wales and across England.

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The three men arrested in Oldham, Florin Costea, 51, Marius Meiosu, 25, and Gabriel Mocanu, 36, have now all been jailed for 42 months.

Their accomplices Nicolea Ilea, 36, Alin Mahai, 27, and Stefan Florin, 31, all received the same sentence during a hearing at Chester Crown Court. All six pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.

Cheshire Police, describing the men as a ‘Romanian crime gang’, said they had come to the UK ‘with the sole intention of committing crime’.

The gang would steal ‘high value items’ including printer cartridges, razor blades, nappies and cosmetics, and would then sell them on.

Asda stores were primarily targeted by the thieves.

Their first crime was committed in April last year, at an Asda store in the West Midlands.

L-R clockwise: Florin Costea, Gabriel Mocanu and Nicolae Ilie, Stefan Florin, Alin Mahai, Marius Meiosu
(Image: Cheshire Police)

They hit 81 stores until September last year.

Cheshire Police launched an investigation after Asda alerted the force to a theft at a store in Northwich.

An investigation by police, Asda’s Asset Protection team and the National Business Crime Centre worked to piece together the criminals’ activities.

CCTV footage, ANPR cameras and credit card information was used to link the men to the conspiracy.

Meiosu, Costea and Mocanu, all of Darwin Street, Oldham were arrested on September 10 last year.

Ilea, of Whitehall Road, Handsworth, Birmingham; Florin, of HMP Risley; and Mahai, of Belvidere Road, Liverpool; were also caught over the following months.

After the sentencing hearing, Detective Constable Paul Matchett, of the Northwich Beat Initiative Team, said: “It is clear that this gang travelled to the UK with the sole intention of committing crime.

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“They set up their base in Oldham and from there they travelled to stores across the UK and stole hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of items.

“They believed that they could evade justice by spreading their crimes across the country in a bid to keep a low profile.

“While their plan worked initially, they underestimated the partnership work between the police and the business community and they are now behind bars facing the consequences of their actions.

“I would like to recognise the work that Asda’s Asset Protection team has undertaken and I have no doubt that without their support this gang would still be targeting stores across the country.

“It’s important to remember that shoplifting is not a victimless crime, and it’s the general public who end up footing the bill through increased prices.

“I hope that the sentences handed to this gang provide reassurance to the public and business community and act as a warning for other offenders who think that retail outlets are easy targets.”

Daryl Pollard, CPS Senior Crown Prosecutor, added: “These serial criminals targeted various ASDA stores throughout the UK hoping to operate under the radar, stealing £160,000 of goods from supermarkets to sell on.

“We were able to unravel their crimes by carefully evaluating CCTV footage and analysing credit card transactions. We worked very closely with the police and stores to bring these criminals to justice.”

Manchester Evening News – Oldham