Two cousins who kidnapped and robbed drinkers in Coventry by posing as taxi drivers have been jailed after West Midlands Police linked them to a series of weekend attacks.
Vasiele Stoian and Englezo Tanase toured the city centre on the lookout for drunken revellers before luring them into their car with promises of cheap lifts.
However, once inside the victims were assaulted or threatened with violence and made to hand over bank cards and PIN numbers.
The pair were jailed on Thursday (6 June) for seven years each having admitted striking three times inside seven days in November 2017 - but it’s suspected they may have committed up to 10 robberies.
On 4 November they picked up a man outside Spon Gate pub and used his card to withdraw £300 in cash and make contactless payments at an eastern European mini market.
The following day they collected a man who’d been drinking in Birmingham. He passed out in the back seat to find himself being driven around Coventry at high speed; his cards were used to withdraw £250 in cash.
And on 11 November a man got into what he thought was a taxi in Spon Street before being robbed of bank cards which were then used to buy petrol and a McDonalds.
West Midlands Police detectives identified the pattern of offending and linked a Mercedes used in the offences to Stoian’s address in Stepney Road, Stoke.
Officers raided the property on 28 November where the 20-year-old was arrested and stolen phones recovered; clothing matching that worn by the offenders was also found in the address.
Tanase - now aged 19 but who was just 17 at the time - was arrested later the same day from his home address in Park Street, Foleshill.
Both tried blaming each other, plus unknown accomplices, for the robberies and insisted they were innocent passengers and not willing participants.
However, detectives seized CCTV showing the Romanian nationals using stolen bank cards at petrol station forecourts, in shops and at cash points.
They still denied three counts of kidnap and three counts of robbery - but on day one of their trial they entered guilty pleas and were jailed.
Investigating officer, Detective Constable Richard Walker, said: "This was a calculated series of robberies with Stoian and Tanase targeting men who were vulnerable through excess alcohol. Two of the men were so drunk they passed out having got into the car…and awoke to find they were being robbed.
"We suspect they may have committed up to 10 offences from the end of October 2017 before they were arrested.
"We gathered compelling evidence against the pair - who in police interview seemingly didn’t grasp the seriousness of their crimes - which led them to enter guilty pleas at the 11th hour. Despite their young age they have rightly been handed lengthy jail sentences."