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Shoplifting gang member whose alcohol thefts included supermarkets in Ipswich, Beccles and Diss is jailed

A man has been jailed for his part in an organised shoplifting gang that stole at least £34,500 worth of champagne and spirits from multiple supermarkets, some of which were in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Alexandru Cercel, aged 39, formerly of Homestead Road, Dagenham, and his accomplices targeted stores including, Tesco, Morrisons, Asda, and Sainsbury’s between October 2021 and June 2023 – stealing up to £3,000 worth of alcohol in each raid and returning to the same store up to five times on the same day.

Cercel was arrested at Dover docks trying to leave the country as a wanted man on July 1 this year.

Alexandru Cerce. Picture: Norfolk Police
Alexandru Cerce. Picture: Norfolk Police

Further investigations revealed the gang had travelled between Cambridge, Ipswich, Basildon, Beccles, Great Yarmouth, Norwich, Diss, Canvey Island, and Hertford to carry out the thefts.

Whilst on remand and in a bid to ‘clear his slate’ Cercel engaged with the Norfolk and Suffolk Operation Converter TIC Units who were able to present him with evidence of 26 further crimes which he also admitted to.

Of those, nine offences were committed in Norfolk, and seven in Suffolk – accounting for stolen alcohol worth around £16,000.

Cercel appeared before Canterbury Crown Court on Friday, and after admitting to eight counts of stealing alcohol from Tesco stores in Cambridgeshire, Essex, Kent, and Hertfordshire between October 2021 and June 2023.

He also asked for 26 other thefts to be taken into consideration (TIC) and he was jailed for two years.

At his sentencing the scale of the operation was described as ‘industrial’, with the judge saying the thefts were likely motivated to fund other criminal enterprise and that the method used indicated ‘highly organised and planned offending.’

The court gave him some credit for admitting to the TIC offences which showed some genuine remorse and saved the various police forces a great deal of investigation time, it was said.

Duncan Etchells, supervisor of the Norfolk Operation Converter TIC Unit said: “We will always do all we can to bring serious organised criminals such as Cercel to justice.

“By investigating him as we did, a large number of high value retail thefts were put before the court and we welcome this sentence as retail crime on this scale impacts all the customers of the affected stores”.

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