A jewel thief grandmother who pinched rings worth £27,000 while accomplices kept a shop owner talking, has been jailed for two years.
Maria Gabor (39) snatched two pads of sparklers from the window display at Huppach and Co in Barnoldswick.
She had gone into the Rainhall Road premises with three others, who “surrounded” Fred Huppach and kept him distracted by pretending to be interested in buying gems, Burnley Crown Court heard.
The hearing was told Mr Huppach hadn’t realised what had happened when the gang left his shop in March 2013.
He suspected they might be passing counterfeit money in the area, called the police and it was only when the shop’s CCTV was viewed the theft was seen.
Gabor also has a similar offence on her record and is a prolific shoplifter.
She’s not had an easy life. That’s no excuse for stealingDefence team
She had left the country by the time she was identified as the theft culprit, but was detained in Paris under a European Arrest Warrant before extradition to face the charge.
Romanian national Gabor, who came to the UK in 2007, broke down and sobbed in the dock as she was led away to start her punishment, almost three years after she committed the offence. The defendant, from The Parklands, Bury, admitted theft.
Prosecutor Judith McCullough told the court that at about 1-20pm on March 13th, 2013, two men and two women went into the jewellers. One was the defendant.
Three of them began to speak to Mr Huppach and inquire about various jewellery items in the shop. Miss McCullough continued: “He describes himself as being surrounded by them as he was distracted.”
The prosecutor said as the victim was dealing with the three group members, Gabor made her way to the window display at the front of the shop, pushed back some locked doors, reached in and removed a jeweller’s pad full of rings.
She then walked behind one of the men still talking to Mr Huppach and put the pad into a bag she was carrying before returning to the display and taking another pad of rings. The group told Mr Huppach they would return for jewellery they had been shown and all left.
Miss McCullough said: “At that point, he was unaware that anything had been stolen.
“He was aware a group was in the area passing counterfeit notes and worried this was the group and they said they might return, he contacted the police.
“He was very upset by the theft. His insurers have paid him £27,000 compensation for the loss.”
After Gabor’s arrest in France, she was interviewed and entered a guilty plea at the first opportunity. None of the rings have been recovered.
Jeremy Lasker (defending Gabor) said: “She has children and indeed grandchildren. She’s 39 years of age, although she does look, and forgive me for saying it, potentially older than that.
“She’s not had an easy life. That’s no excuse for stealing. This has been her first period in custody. It’s been hard for her because her English is virtually non-existent and she is desperate to get back to her family.
“By far her best mitigation is her guilty plea.
“I accept none of the rings have been returned or found. I anticipate Your Honour will accept that she has seen no benefit from this.
Mr Lasker added: “She was with other members of the extended family. She may be regarded as a bit of a scapegoat. There is some reference in the pre-sentence report to pressure and money and so on.”
Judge Beverley Lunt said: “It would be unlikely you would do a theft like this without having some benefit.”
Sentencing, she told the defendant: “You have pleaded guilty to this serious offence. This venture was pre-planned. The items taken were to a very high value, £27,000 worth of jewellery.
“You were part of a group who deliberately went in and targeted the jeweller to steal that property. You did the actual stealing whilst others distracted the owner.”