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Pickpocketing gang jailed for stealing phones and purses


Three Romanian women have been jailed after forming a pickpocketing gang to steal phones and purses from unsuspecting students. 

Ribana Mihai, 24, her sister Luminita, 21, and cousin Rebecca State, also 21, were caught by an undercover police operation after ten victims a day were targeted outside Manchester Metropolitan University.

The women - all Romanian nationals - loitered outside lecture halls and used hand signals to communicate as they selected students walking to or leaving classes.

Plain clothes officers pounced on December 1 last year after the thieves were spotted trying to steal a £1,000 iPhone XR and purse from the pocket of a female international student as she walked with a friend.

The victim was unaware she had been targeted until officers stopped her to ask if she still had all her belongings.

Police said the women would regularly switch clothing and cover their heads with hoods to confuse potential witnesses before selling the items they stole on the black market.

The thefts caused such widespread concern a Facebook group was set up to give international students advice on how to avoid becoming a victim.

At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, mother-of-four Ribana, from Clarksfield, Oldham, was jailed for 20 months. 

Lumita got 16 months imprisonment while mother-of-one Rebecca, who lives at the same address in Levenshulme, Manchester, was jailed for 14 months.

The three, who all have previous convictions for similar matters, were also banned from Manchester city centre until 2026 under a Criminal Behaviour Order. 

If they're caught entering a forbidden area they could face another five years behind bars. 

They admitted attempted theft after their not guilty pleas for conspiracy to steal were accepted. A man they were seen with escaped capture and has not been traced.

Lumita had 16 offences on her record including theft from the person, shoplifting and begging and had just completed a community order imposed for obstructing police. 

Rebecca had four offences, including pickpocketing and begging, on her record whilst Ribana had six offences for pickpocketing and shoplifting. In 2019 Ribana was jailed for 28 weeks for stealing mobile phones.