London to Gravesend train pickpocket family jailed

Property in Romania financed by Rostas family
Image caption The family sent money home to Romania to purchase property and land

A family of pickpockets who stole mobile phones and cash from sleeping train passengers between London and Kent, have been jailed.

Brothers Romulus, Marin, Robert and Romulus Govinder Rostas and their cousin-in-law Cornell Rostas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.

British Transport Police (BTP) said they carried out more than 180 thefts of property worth over £60,000.

Det Con Tim Weekes said police believed they sent the proceeds home to Romania.

"These men were agents involved in a highly organised conspiracy to steal aimed at generating as much money as possible to pass back to other family members in Romania to buy land and property," he said.

Romulus, 18, Marin, 25, Romulus Govinder, 17, and Cornell, 22, originally denied the conspiracy charge but changed their plea during their trial in February at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Late-night trains

Robert, 23, admitted conspiracy to steal at an earlier hearing. All five lived in Gravesend, Kent.

Cornell Rostas was jailed for three years and three months, Marin for three years, Robert for two-and-a-half years and Romulus for 18 months. Romulus Govinder was given a 12-month detention and training order.

The family's activities came to light after a BTP investigation targeting the increasing number of mobile phone thefts on trains.

"Typically the group operated on late-night trains between Charing Cross and Gravesend," said Mr Weekes.

"They would identify and target vulnerable passengers who were sleeping or otherwise distracted.

"These men are career criminals, with most having been previously arrested, charged or convicted for theft-related matters."

Phones seized

The thefts were carried out between January 2009 and August 2011, he said.

Following the arrest of two of the brothers after a sleeping woman was targeted on a late-night service in January 2011, police searched two addresses in Gravesend and seized a number of mobile phones, SIM cards and other items.

Officers viewed over 50 hours of CCTV footage and discovered images of the brothers entering and leaving the rail network on days when offences were committed.

"We know there were over 180 crimes and over £60,000 worth of stolen property linked to this group," said Mr Weekes.

"But these are minimum estimates and the true figure could have been much higher."

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