Across September and October 2020, Lucretia Stanescu committed 14 theft offences against members of staff working at shops in Dover, Whitstable, Canterbury, Maidstone, Hoo and Gillingham. She also targeted victims in Essex and Warwickshire.
The 29-year-old, of Parsloes Avenue, Dagenham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday 16 December.
In addition to the custodial sentence, a lifetime order which instructs her to pay back what she stole in full was passed by the court.
The Chief Constable’s Crime Squad launched an investigation into Stanescu after jewellery worth £100,000 was stolen from a shop in Tenterden High Street.
CCTV clearly captured her picking up a guitar to obscure her actions, before she picked up a bag containing the jewellery.
She was then captured leaving the scene in a red Peugeot, which was stopped by police in Berkshire three days later.
As a result of further enquiries, detectives were able to connect Stanescu to 11 other theft offences committed across Kent, as well as individual offences committed in Grays and Warwick.
Stanescu used the same modus operandi for much of her offending – she would attend a shop and distract staff by asking a series of questions while discreetly stealing valuable items.
She was captured on CCTV on most occasions, including one incident in Pudding Lane, Maidstone, which saw her take a mobile phone from a shopworker’s desk while they gathered leaflets for her.
Senior investigating officer DS Jay Robinson said: ‘Lucretia Stanescu used slight-of-hand and distraction tricks, where she would keep staff busy by inquiring about an appointment or product from the shop, then discretely steal any mobile phones left in view by shop staff.
‘Sometimes she would cover the phones with leaflets or her bag first and steal the phones as she picked up the item covering them. It was a well-practised technique which led to her widespread stealing spree.
‘Considering people store so much information on their phones, which is important to their lives, Stanescu’s deception would have been impactive on so many people and we take a very dim view of her actions. Fortunately she is now in prison and I hope she understands her distraction tricks are not welcome here in Kent.’