Gang of jewelry thieves jailed after stealing $35m in goods from celebs

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A trio of thieves has been arrested in London for stealing more than $35m (£26m) worth of items from celebrities.

Jugoslav Jovanovic, Alessandro Donati, and Alessandro Maltese made up the gang of thieves who took their aim at the homes of high profile people, such as soccer manager and former England midfielder Frank Lampard; TV presenter Christine Lampard; Tamara Ecclestone, the Formula 1 heir; and Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, the Thai billionaire who owned the Premier League club Leicester City until he died in a helicopter crash in 2018.

Police said the heists are the “highest value series of residential burglaries in UK history”.

The three men from Milan conducted their first break-in after spending only a few days in the UK, according to authorities. The London Metropolitan Police said they stole $80,600 (£60,000) worth of goods at an address in Kensington and Chelsea on 1 December 2019.

Only a few days later, on 10 December, they stole $1.34m (£1m) in watches and cash at a home in Knightsbridge, later stealing diamonds, stones, and more watches and cash worth more than $35m (£26m) from a home in Palace Green.

Authorities revealed that most of the stolen goods haven’t been found.

Law enforcement said they took extraordinary measures to avoid being identified. They only used cash, wore disguises and hats, and never walked together as a group. The “three of them individually praised us for working out who they were and locating them”, police said, according to CNN.

Police could create a crime scene by examining a low-quality surveillance footage clip lasting 13 seconds of the burglars going through the back garden of the Palace Green property and going back out following the theft.

The clip also showed the gang getting into a black taxi as they left the scene, prompting officers to find 1,007 taxis that were in the area at that time. Trying to track every one of them, police found that it was the 1,004th driver who picked up the burglars. From the interview with the driver, police could identify a route that the gang used repeatedly.

Detective Constable Andrew Payne said in a statement: “This story is comparable to what you will see in a Hollywood movie but unfortunately this was real life and involved real victims.”

The 24-year-old Jovanovic pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to money laundering and was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Donati, 44, and Maltese, 45, were both handed sentences of eight years and nine months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to burgle.

“I would say that this incident has had a major impact on our general feeling of security, particularly with having a 16-month-old baby,” Mr Lampard said in a statement. “The fact that my job means that I travel frequently again raises my concerns. Neither my wife nor I are sleeping too well as a consequence of this incident.”

Ms Lampard said she has struggled to sleep following the incident.

“I am much more fearful of being alone in my own home, I am less trusting of visitors to the house and feel unsafe in my home,” she said. “I have a young daughter and feel vulnerable in a home which I had previously always felt safe and happy in.”

The Srivaddhanaprabha family said the late businessman’s home had been “a place of reflection and to pray”.

“We felt it was the strongest connection to him as he spent his last night there before his death. Since the burglary, our sacred and special connection has been damaged and violated beyond repair,” the family added.

The daughter of Formula 1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, Tamara Ecclestone, said: “I’m so scared, I will not leave my daughter alone in the house at night because I just feel like the people I am meant to trust, I don’t, I’m not sure that I can trust anyone.”

She added that her daughter “talks about burglars now as well, which is really really hard and that’s the worst part trying to pretend to her nothing actually did happen, and to try to make her feel the house is a safe space”.

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