TWO highly organised shoplifters used Bluetooth earpieces to communicate as they snatched thousands of pounds worth of alcohol from Booths stores in Ulverston and Windermere. 

Carlisle Crown Court heard Iulian Bucur, 30, and 27-year-old accomplice Eduard Cristea called at shops Windermere and Ulverston and Penrith with an unidentified third man.

The trio struck first at the Brunswick Road store in Penrith shortly after 1pm on 12th December.

“They removed bottles of alcohol including some high value whiskies. They put them into bags. They put the bags into a trolley,” said Gerard Rogerson, prosecuting. “The third unidentified man kept lookiut and the three communicated with each other by Bluetooth earpieces.

“On that first occasion at Penrith, £900 worth of alcohol was stolen as the defendants pushed a trolley out of the store, loaded it up and disappeared.”

From there, the thieves headed to Windermere and were in the Booths premises there at around 5-35pm. “The same methods were deployed,” said Mr Rogerson.

“Mr Bucur filled the bags and then left the trolley containing the alcohol for a while as he thought he might have been spotted. He left the store but returned a short while later. He picked up the bag from the trolley and walked out of the store. As he did that, Mr Cristea provided a distraction by leaning over a till, occupying the attention of the staff.”

Some £636.50 worth of alcohol was snatched.

The following day Bucur, Cristea and the mystery third man went to Booths’ Ulverston branch, first at around 1-05pm when they stole booze validated at £615.50.

“They returned to the same store 13 minutes later and stole a further £135 worth of alcohol,” said Mr Rogerson.

Both Bucur and Cristea were later arrested and interviewed.

“Their interviews were almost identical,” said the prosecutor. “A mixture of ‘no comment’, ‘I don’t know what’s happened’ and ‘a long time has passed.”

When brought to court the pair, both of Warrington Road, Ince-in-Makerfield, near Wigan, each admitted four theft charges.

The court heard neither man was in the UK lawfully. Bucur had six previous convictions for 11 offences on a criminal record which, said Mr Rogerson, had an “international flavour”

There had been previous thefts in Belgium and France. And, since the Cumbria incidents, both Bucur and Cristea had since been sentenced in Lancashire for offences committed after 13th December.

Both men opted to be sentenced despite not being legally represented by lawyers. Bucur was jailed for eight months for the Cumbria crimes by Recorder Julian Shaw, and Cristea for six months.

“I am quite satisfied on the evidence that this was organised, sophisticated and planned,” said Recorder Shaw. “You used electronic Bluetooth earpieces to communicate with each other whilst engaged in your criminal activities.”

The judge also said: “It occurs to me on the evidence that you targeted the Booths chain of stores perhaps because you perceived there to be less security measures in place there than in other rural stores selling alcohol.”

Nine of the loot was ever recovered. It had been, concluded Recorder Shaw of the criminality, “stealing alcohol effectively to order”.