Friday, 7 November 2014

Prolific Jewellery Thief's £1/4M Crime Blitz Ends With Incriminating 'Selfie'

A prolific jewellery thief, who snatched nearly a quarter of a million pounds worth of valuables from shops all over London was caught after leaving behind his mobile phone following one raid, which had a 'selfie' screensaver image of himself.

Mechanic Germain Ibrahim Fofana, 27, who blew the lot gambling in casinos, received five-and-a-half years imprisonment today for a total of forty-five offences.

Police identified the New York-native, whose father is American and his mother from the Ivory Coast, from the 'selfie' pic on the screensaver of the phone he left behind at the scene of an £18,000 jewellery theft from Ernest Jones in Kingston-upon-Thames on May 18.

Posing as a customer he entered the shop with female accomplice, who had a young child in a buggy, at 1.45pm, claiming to be looking for an engagement ring.

He returned alone thirty minutes later and asked to see the two original engagement rings he viewed and a wedding ring to compare styles, running out of the shop when the assistant handed them over.

When police announced the manhunt Detective Sergeant Damion Cumming said: "In his hurry to get out of the shop, the suspect left his mobile phone on the table alongside his bag.

"While police were on the scene the phone lit up, having received a text message, and a picture of the suspect was saved as the background.

"It was the shop assistant, who served him, who was able to identify the person in the picture."

Police used the information to tie Fofana, who lived in modest digs at the Marbella Hotel,

Queens Road, Peckham, to a string of similar offences committed all over the capital.

He pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to nine counts of theft and one count of attempted theft, which included the Ernest Jones offence, plus theft of jewellery, worth £29,770, from Kabiri, 37 Marylebone High Street, Marylebone on June 23.

Theft of two gold chains and two gold bracelets, worth £3,675, from Albone Pawnbrokers, Walworth Road, Walworth on September 25, last year.

Theft of a necklace, worth £5,000, from Sinclair Jewellers, 6-7 The Pavement, Wimbledon, on February 25.

Theft of jewellery, worth £21,520, from Pandora, 1 New Change, Cheapside, on June 29.

Theft of a ring, worth £4,500, from Jonathan Greeves, Liverpool Street, on Jun 6.

Theft of jewellery, worth £7,600, from Links of London, Royal Exchange on June 20.

Attempting to steal one Omega watch, worth £12,950, from Suttons & Robertson, Fleet Street, on June 5.

Theft from Links of London, King's Road, Chelsea of jewellery, worth £30,000, on May 28 and theft of a gold bracelet and necklace, worth £1,770 from McCarthy's on april 7.

Fofana, asked for another twenty-six similar theft offences to be taken into consideration, plus five burglaries from London hostels and one burglary of a hotel.

He also pleaded guilty to burgling another hostel, Baden Powell House, Queensgate, South Kensington on January 7; February 20 and April 10; stealing luggage, cameras, an iPod, and an Apple Mac worth at least £1,580.

The total haul was worth £237,663, but when arrested Fofana only had £250 cash and a fake Omega watch on him and the court made no order regarding costs and compensation.

"You have showed yourself to be a prolific thief," Recorder Lionel Persey QC told him. 

"The modus operandi was that you went into a shop and asked to see items of jewellery and would snatch the jewellery and run off.

"Your conduct was aggressive and items were of high value and a significant degree of pre-planning went into these thefts and were distressing to staff members.

"I have seen a statement from Links where staff were traumatised and additional security training had to be put in place and it is a severely aggravating feature that seven of the thefts were committed while you were on bail."

Regarding the burglaries Recorder Persey added: "You were targeting those holidaying in London, young people staying at hostels, a particularly nasty crime distressing to the victims."

Fofana's lawyer Mr. Oliver Weetch told the court: "He's co-operated fully with the police in going through a large number of offences and providing information on them.

"The offending is a result of a heavy gambling addiction and a problem with alcohol. Like most gamblers he's lost all his money."

An Interpol check revealed confusion as to Fofana's conduct in France before coming to the UK, initially suggesting he had convictions for armed robbery, burglary and handling stolen goods then a second enquiry stating he was of good character.

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