Paris security guards turned ‘blind eye’ as ‘Queen of Thieves’ gang robbed tourists, court hears


September 4, 2015

Source: The Telegraph by Henry Samuel

Gang of 16 pickpockets including “Queen of Thieves” and Versailles Palace guard on trial for “selfie robberies” at top tourist sites including the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.

louvre-museum-paris

A Romanian known as the “queen of thieves” and 15 others conducted a spate of robberies at top Parisian landmarks while at least one security guard “turned a blind eye”, a Paris court heard on Thursday.

Masquerading as smart young tourists taking selfies, the gang netted hundreds of thousands of euros by fleecing unsuspecting foreigners, including Britons, at sites including the Eiffel Tower, the Orsay and Louvre museums, and the Palace of Versailles.

Detectives suspected the gang had accomplices inside the different landmarks, but only one is standing trial – a security guard at Versailles. The guard admitted accepting a €10,000 (£7,300) bribe to look the other way – even warning the gang of the whereabouts of his most “efficient” colleagues – but said he only agreed to help after receiving death threats.

Thibaut Cotta, lawyer for one of the accused, said other alleged accomplices believed their employers would not take action in order to protect the sites’ tourist-friendly “image”.

Thefts were so prevalent that in April 2013 staff at the Louvre went on strike, saying they would return to work when police sent reinforcements.

queen of thieves Paris

Wearing Bermuda shorts and cameras, the gang worked in groups of three, with one stealing, another causing distractions and a third keeping a look out.

If they were caught, the thieves screamed, started fighting or even took their clothes off in the galleries to put off tourists while they made their escape.

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At the height of their operation, the Louvre registered some 138 thefts for the month of August 2012, with €138,000 (£100,000) reported stolen.

The charges largely relate to thefts in 2013, but police said the gang wired around €700,000 (£510,000) to Romania between 2005 and 2013.

Investigators said they believed the gang was well-organised.

Two women were among the alleged masterminds: Mariana Gandac, 25, alias Cinca, and Sandra Baciu, 35, dubbed “the Queen of Thieves”.

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The pair are accused of coordinating around a dozen accomplices, mainly at the Louvre and at Versailles. During one secretly recorded conversation, Ms Baciu confessed to “hating public holidays” as it brought more Parisians to the museums – who were of little interest to the gang.

Among the accused are a couple who say they met while stealing from the same handbag in 1994 in Rome. Police said the couple’s standard of living was well above their official means, with several properties registered under their names in Romania.

The Facebook page of another defendant shows films in which her baby plays with allegedly stolen €500 notes.

This is the second trial in four months after eight Romanian pickpockets using the same techniques were sentenced in May.

The trial is expected to finish on September 11.

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Lakewood Sheriff’s Ask for Help in Parental Abduction of Sage and Isaac Cook


September 3, 2015

Source: loscerritosnews.net

LAKEWOOD (CNS) – Sheriff’s detectives asked for the public’s help today finding two children who were allegedly abducted by their mother, a Lakewood woman who gave their father a falsified court document ordering a supervised visit.

Faye Ku

Sage Cook, 14, and Isaac Cook, 9, were last seen Aug. 28 at Los Angeles International Airport, where they had just arrived on a flight from Washington state, according to Capt. Keith E. Swensson of the sheriff’s Lakewood station.

The children live with their biological father in Washington. He has had full custody of the children since their parents divorced in 2009, according to the sheriff’s department. But their mother, 41-year-old Faye Ku, presented the children’s father with what appeared to be a “supervised visit” court order issued by the state of Washington, sheriff’s officials said.

Thinking it was a legitimate order, he sent the children to Los Angeles.

After gathering the children at the airport and taking them to her Lakewood home, she disappeared, Swennson said. “Ms. Ku also employed an unsuspecting witness to aid her,” according to Swensson, who added that Ku also has a 2-year-old son named Zephyr who could also be traveling with them. Zephyr is the missing children’s half-brother. “Ms. Ku and the children’s whereabouts are unknown at this time,” he said. “Our detectives have been in contact with federal authorities, as well as several local agencies.”

He said Ku also intentionally left behind personal belongings at her home to prevent law enforcement from tracking her whereabouts. “In a prepared letter, she blamed the children’s father for trying to control them, and asked him to leave them alone,” he said.

Child_Abduction_Mexico_Tijuana

According to the sheriff’s department, Ku tried to take Sage and Isaac to Taiwan on June 12, 2013, but they were detained by law enforcement before they were able to board the flight.

Swensson said Ku has contacts in California, New Mexico and Texas. She also has friends in Tijuana, Mexico. Ku, who is of Chinese descent, is 5-foot-3 with black hair and black eyes. Anyone with any information was asked to call (562) 623-3500.

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