A man has been sentenced to three years in prison after a Hertfordshire-led investigation linked more than 50 offences to a travelling criminal.
Stefan Balaceanu, aged 24, of Gordon Road, Ilford, Essex, pleaded guilty to 53 offences committed in 15 different counties, 16 of which were committed in Hertfordshire.
The court previously heard that between July 2018 and May 2019, Balaceanu travelled the country stealing mobile phones, purses and wallets from victims after distracting them.
Balaceanu carried out some of his crimes in Rickmansworth, Hemel Hempstead and Watford.
On February 18, he stole a wallet from a customer inside Zaza on Church Street in Rickmansworth.
On February 19, he stole a mobile phone from a customer at The Full House on the Marlowes in Hemel Hempstead.
On the same day, he stole another mobile phone from a customer in Costa at Debenhams in Riverside, Hemel Hempstead.
On April 19, he stole a mobile phone from a hair salon on North Approach in Watford.
On May 20, he stole mobile phones from two offices in Queensway, Hemel Hempstead; a hair salon in Courtlands Drive, Watford; a tattoo parlour in Vicarage Road, Watford, and an estate agents in Station Road, Rickmansworth
The defendant would approach his victims while holding a piece of paper with writing on and speaking a foreign language.
He would point at the paper and ask them to help him.
While his victims were distracted, he would steal their belongings while using the paper to conceal his actions.
It was not until the victims went to use their mobile phone, wallet or purse that they realised they were missing.
Balaceanu also carried out his crimes in neighbouring Hertfordshire communities like Stevenage, Bishops Stortford and Cheshunt.
On May 22 this year, Balaceanu was arrested by officers from Hampshire Constabulary after they stopped a vehicle which flashed up on their ANPR system in Basingstoke.
It transpired that Balaceanu had committed a string of similar theft offences in Hampshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Wiltshire, London, Essex, West Yorkshire, Sussex, Kent, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire during a nine-month period.
DC James Kier, from the Specialist Investigation Team, said: “The scale of Balaceanu’s offending was very significant.
It was clear he had no qualms about targeting innocent members of the public after preying on their good natures.
“This was a protracted investigation and involved colleagues from elsewhere in the Constabulary as well as 15 different police forces. I would like to publicly thank them for their help in gathering evidence because their support ultimately enabled us to achieve a conviction.”