|Toronto Police have arrested three Roma family members in connection with a string of distraction thefts. Ileana Stoian, 38, her husband Ulise, 42, and their son Cristiano, 18, each face two charges of theft under $5,000. (Supplied)
TORONTO - A family of alleged Roma gypsies has been arrested in connection with a string of distraction thefts that targeted elderly Italian women.
The trio — a mother, father and their teenage son — were taken into custody as part of an investigation that is being conducted in conjunction with Canada Border Services Agency, Toronto Police said Friday.
“The investigation is still ongoing,” sad 12 Division Det.-Sgt. Colin Greenaway.
The family is only charged in two thefts at this point but that could change as the probe continues.
Greenaway said eight victims, aged 75 to 88, have had $15,000 worth of jewelry stolen since August in 12 Division.
But he said he believes an organized crime ring is involved and that it could be responsible for hundreds of similar thefts across the GTA.
The thieves typically drive through residential neighbourhoods looking for seniors, usually women, and ask potential victims if they speak Italian.
One of the occupants of the vehicle will then jump out and ask for directions to a doctor’s office or a pharmacy, he explained. The crook may also offer to buy the victim’s jewelry or ask for help with a funeral or funds for a trip to the U.S.
At the end of the exchange, Greenaway said the thief pretends to be extremely happy, kisses the victim’s hand or gives the victim a hug. During that hug, the victim’s earrings or necklace is stolen and replaced with cheap jewelry.
It happens in a split second and the elderly victims often have no idea they have been robbed until much later.
“Although a substantial arrest has been made there are more suspects out in the community,” Greenaway warned. “The weather is changing and so may their tactics.”
He said the distraction thieves tend to move indoors as it turns cold.
They keep their eyes peeled as people enter their debit and credit card PIN at a store, then distract the victims later in the parking lot and swipe their wallet.
Ileana Stoian, 38, her husband Ulise, 42, and their son Cristiano, 18, each face two counts of theft under $5,000.
The accused are Markham residents who immigrated from Romania and claimed refugee status in Canada last spring, Greenaway said, pointing out Ileana has been accused of similar crimes in the United Kingdom.
She and her husband were also among the 34 people busted in early September by Durham Regional Police as part of their Project Mansfield, a massive distraction theft investigation that led to 263 charges.