Burglar who raided South Gloucestershire home stopped in car stuffed with loot in Romania
A BURGLAR who was part of a professional gang targeting homes in the West Country was found with loot from the raids when police stopped his car in Romania.
Claudiu Popa and his accomplices raided homes in South Gloucestershire, North Somerset and Somerset over a week-long period in January.
The homes in six towns and villages included one in Dyrham.
Popa was stopped by police in Romania for a traffic offence in February, six days after the gang's last known burglary. The officers found a haul of stolen goods in the back of his car (above) including silverware, medals and jewellery.
The 23-year-old was released on bail and fled Romania, only to be tracked down in Scotland, where he was working in a hotel.
Popa (below), of no fixed address, was jailed for three years and 10 months at Taunton Crown Court on May 15, after admitting a charge of conspiracy to commit burglaries between January 20 and 28 this year.
PC Mark Pollock, of Avon and Somerset police’s Operation Remedy team, said: “Popa was one of a professional gang of burglars who carried out a series of offences in our force area.
“They would smash windows at the homes they were targeting and steal silverware, jewellery and, in some cases, war medals.
“The crime group would courier the stolen property out of the country and into mainland Europe.
“We recovered DNA evidence at some of our burglary scenes and this evidence directly led to the arrest of Claudiu Popa in Scotland, where he was working at a hotel after fleeing Romania.
“In interview, Popa admitted his involvement in multiple burglary offences and said items found in his car had been stolen from homes within our force area.
“We’re now in the process of working with officers in Romania to obtain photographs of all the recovered items and reunite as many as we can with their rightful owners, but this is going to be a complex and painstaking process.”
Some of the stolen silverware found in Popa's car
PC Pollock said two of the other suspected gang members in Switzerland, where they have been arrested for other offences, while a third is believed to be at large in Romania.
He said: “We’d like to thank the National Crime Agency, Interpol, Police Scotland and the Metropolitan Police for their help in this investigation so far.
“Criminals don’t respect borders and in this case it’s needed a Europe-wide effort to bring this offender to justice.”