Romanian thief jailed in FIVE EU countries was free to come to the UK and steal in bank-card scam
- Leonard Velcu, 31, and Viorel Agapie struck at least 21 times across England
- Their victims included an 84-year-old who had £1,700 stolen from their account
- Velcu admitted conspiring to steal between August 1 and November 30 last year
- Velcu, has been jailed in Sweden and Denmark for similar offences and also been caught in Spain, Italy and Holland
Leonard Velcu, 31, (pictured) and his accomplice Viorel Agapie stole £12,000 from elderly shoppers
A sneak thief already convicted of crimes in five EU countries was allowed to enter Britain where he and an accomplice were free to take thousands of pounds from elderly victims.
But he and accomplice Viorel Agapie struck at least 21 times in four months across England, stealing £12,000 by targeting elderly shoppers at Aldi and Lidl stores in a well-rehearsed bank card scam.
Their victims included an 84-year-old who had £1,700 taken from their bank account.
They were caught after they stole £500 from a pensioner at Aldi in Wolverhampton prompting a police investigation.
The pair would note the PIN used by their victim to pay for their shopping before following him or her outside.
The unsuspecting man or woman would be asked if they'd dropped a £10 note.
When they check their purse or wallet, the card would be stolen by sleight of hand.
The pair would then drain the account or use the card to buy expensive clothes, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The pair, from Romania, had preyed on the elderly throughout Europe and Scandinavia.
The pair were part of an elaborate and organised Romanian criminal gang.
They would target suburban supermarkets - usually an Aldi or Lidl store - and looked for a vulnerable shopper, the older the better, revealed Mr Andrew Baker, prosecuting.
Velcu and Agapie were caught after they stole £500 from a pensioner at Aldi in Goldthorn Hill, Wolverhampton, prompting a police investigation
Fifteen of the vulnerable people targeted were aged between 60 and 85.
Velcu was today sentenced for the crime but Agapie has gone on the run and is still wanted.
Mr Baker said: 'One of them manages, by sleight of hand, to take the bank card without the theft being noticed. It is then used to drain the account or to buy expensive clothes.'
They included an 84-year-old victim who had £1,700 taken from their bank account.
Another was followed for four miles to her Kendal home before her card was stolen.
The pair would note the PIN used by their victim to pay for their shopping before following him or her outside. The unsuspecting man or woman would be asked if they'd dropped a £10 note and when they check their purse or wallet, the card would be stolen by sleight of hand
Their operation unraveled after the theft of £500 from a pensioner at Aldi in Goldthorn Hill.
Wolverhampton police were given details of identical thefts from across the country while another force, whose brief dealings with Velcu and Agapie some time ago suggested they were the likely culprits, also gave them a tip.
They then went to an address in Wolverhampton where Agapie was arrested in a pre-planned raid on January 31.
He was questioned and released on bail pending further inquiries but fled days later and is still on the loose.
Velcu, on the other hand, was arrested in Croatia on July 6 and returned to the UK 12 days later.
He has been banned from both Sweden and Denmark after serving jail sentences in each country for similar offences.
He has also been caught in Spain, Italy and Holland, it was said.
Velcu, of no fixed address, admitted conspiring with others to steal between August 1 and November 30 last year and was today sentenced by Judge Dean Kershaw.