TOM RAWSTORNE: New crime scourge facing UK as gangs of crooks fly in

The South America burglary tourists who stole £33k from Marcus Wareing’s mansion and bring misery to scores of other British victims: TOM RAWSTORNE on the new crime scourge targeting millionaires across UK

  • Dozens of Chilean burglars arrested for multi-million pound criminal endeavour
  • One was found with a package containing £50,000 worth of stolen diamonds  
  • In a separate case a £100,000 Franck Muller watch was found  

Pictured are burglars posing with the stolen jewels. Danko Carvajal-Donaire on the left and Nicolas Astorga on the right

Jailing the burglars, Judge Jonathan Davies said: ‘No one here or abroad should be under an illusion that somehow the UK is a soft touch.’

Strong words. But, sadly, it’s not a warning Chile’s criminal fraternity seems remotely bothered by.

Over the past couple of years the number of young men from the South American nation travelling to Britain for one purpose alone – crime – has shown no let-up.

In that time, dozens of Chilean burglars have been arrested, charged, convicted and jailed for their role in a multi-million pound criminal endeavour that has brought misery to hundreds of British homeowners. 

And, yet, as the latest high-profile raid suggests, still they are willing to chance their arm.

After all, the rewards are high.

Left: Alexis Apablaza, 22, Chilean who travelled to Britain as part a burglary gang. jailed for 2 years. RIght: Ahumada Parades, Gustavo

Left: Bustamente, Angelo. Right: Kurte, Javier

Shortly after Christmas, a 25-year-old man was arrested by border officials having flown back in to Santiago, Chile’s capital, from Spain.

He had been in Europe for five months during which time a warrant was issued for his arrest. Quizzed by officials, he admitted a number of burglaries in and around London. 

Mr Wareing, pictured in his home, revealed that the burglars took some of his most prized possesions

When they searched his belongings they found a package containing diamonds worth more than £50,000, which he’d removed from pieces of jewellery he had taken.

In a separate case, police intercepted a crate bound for Chile from Heathrow holding jewellery including a £100,000 Franck Muller watch.

Of course, the ultimate beneficiaries of these crimes aren’t the foot-soldiers who carry out the burglaries – but the ringleaders who co-ordinate them. Police believe the so-called burglary tourists are paid to travel over from Chile by high level criminals based in London. Many of those recruited have criminal records for burglary and robbery back at home.

If here as tourists, Chileans can stay in the UK for up to six months without visas – more than enough time for the purpose of their visit.

Pictured left: Claudio Donoso, 20 and right Nicolas Portilla Astorga, 27

Indeed, the aim is for them to be in and out of the country in a matter of weeks – during which time they will target multiple properties. Even if they leave clues behind, the police here will have no record of them and, by the time they begin to piece together the clues, they will be heading back home on a plane.

It is thought that when the Chileans arrive in the country they hand over their identification papers and are given a car and mobile phone, before being directed to homes previously identified by the gang.

Three dots had been sprayed on to the back fence of the Wareings’ home. This identified it to the burglars – who included Danko Carvajal-Donaire and Nicolas Portilla Astorga – as a high-value property. The victim of another gang, whose house in Kent was targeted, told the Mail how before the raid he had spotted moped riders acting strangely outside his property.

More than 75 Chilean burglars have been arrested in the past two years In some 200 burglaries in London, Essex, Kent, Surrey, Hertfordshire and Wales

Pictured left: Danko Carvajal-Donaire, 20 and right: Jorge Rojas, 22 

‘The man on the moped said, “That one” and pointed at our house,’ the homeowner recalled. ‘They stopped at the end of the road so I followed them, thinking it was peculiar, but when I got there they sped off. My theory is they were casing the house.’

Chef Marcus Wareing and his wife jane were burgled by a South American gang who jetted in to London to ransack mansions

The burglars also select their victims carefully, targeting wealthy suburbs and often gaining entry on the first floor to avoid setting off alarms.

Having raided the houses, the burglars generally hand over the stolen goods to those higher up the criminal network. Having noticed a particular pattern of burglaries, the Metropolitan Police set up Operation Genie in 2017 to target the gangs. Other forces have followed suit.

While the criminals generally target high-value goods, one homeowner was bemused to discover their approach to football memorabilia. Of three shirts, only one had been left behind – the England one.

A Brazilian shirt had been taken as had a signed Liverpool one bearing the name of Uruguayan star Luis Suarez. Only later, when police arrested one of the burglars, did the reason for the shirt selection became clear – the burglar was from Chile and had a personal interest in South American football.

Over in Chile, the authorities insist they are doing everything they can to help British police.

Meanwhile, police here say they continue to work with the UK Border Agency and Europol to deny foreign criminals access to the UK. Given the losses suffered by the Wareings and other victims, one can only hope they have more success in the future than they have had thus far.

Marcus Wareing’s family home was ransacked by a sinister gang who stole £33,000 of valuables after jetting in from South America and staking out the property.

The ‘burglary tourists’ smashed their way into the MasterChef judge’s £7million house after its back fence was marked with three orange painted dots – in a chilling sign it was being watched by criminals.

Wareing and his wife Jane were on holiday when the four-man gang struck, days after flying in from Chile in the latest example of pre-planned burglary tourism carried out by raiders recruited from abroad. They smashed through first-floor patio doors before ransacking the six-bedroom house Wimbledon, south-west London as they hunted for valuables, a court heard yesterday.

Wareing, 49 – a judge on the BBC’s MasterChef: The Professionals – lost two Omega watches worth more than £12,000 and a gold Rolex. The burglars also made off with an expensive timepiece engraved with the words ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ in reference to Gordon Ramsay, with whom Wareing once worked.

The burglars stole pendants from the houses they broke into 

Mrs Wareing, 48, lost earrings, bracelets, a £1,500 Cartier watch, a pair of £520 Christian Louboutin shoes and a locket containing pictures of her father and uncle.

Prosecutor Christiaan Moll told Kingston Crown Court that £33,711 of items were stolen. The couple had left the property – which has six bathrooms, a designer kitchen, a cinema room and landscaped gardens – for their second home in Kent when the raid took place on the night of October 11.

Mr Moll said: ‘The master bedroom was broken into and their possessions strung out all over the floor. There had been an untidy search of that room, which is on the first floor. A double patio door which leads to a large balcony was smashed and there was glass on the bedroom floor.’ Danko Carvajal-Donaire and Claudio Donoso, both 20, Jorge Rojas, 22, and Nicolas Portilla Astorga, 27, were arrested four days after the raid as they travelled to another planned burglary.

Rojas was wearing a stolen gold pendant belonging to Mrs Wareing, and detectives also found a photograph of Carvajal-Donaire and Astorga posing with some of the jewellery they had taken.

Sentencing each man to three years, four months in prison, Judge Jonathan Davies warned other homeowners to beware of the spray-painted orange dots that signalled criminals were watching the property. He added: ‘I mention that so others are made aware to be on their guard if they see such markings.’

Outside Mr Wareing’s house the gang sprayed an orange dot on his fence with the judge who jailed them warning others to be aware of the sign

The judge said the gang ‘heaped misery’ on the Wareings, who married in 2000 and have three children. He said: ‘Each of you came to this country with one purpose – crime. No other reason for your visit to the UK has been offered to me.’

The burglars were caught when their car was stopped by police in Redhill, Surrey, as they made their way to another property they were hoping to ransack. Detectives then discovered they had been staying at a property in Thornton Heath, south London, which they were using as a base after being recruited to fly to the UK to commit crime.

The four pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and going equipped to steal. They are likely to be deported after finishing their sentences. In a victim impact statement Mrs Wareing said the loss of the jewellery and watches was ‘deeply upsetting’.

‘Burglary tourism’ typically involves thieves being recruited in their home country and given tickets to fly to Britain. They are then given information on how to by-pass security systems and alarms – and often leave the country a few days after their crime spree.

More than 75 Chilean burglars have been arrested since 2016 over raids in Hertfordshire, Essex, Kent, Surrey and London. One burglary netted the gang £400,000. Once members are arrested they all give ‘no comment’ interviews and plead guilty to serve as little UK jail time as possible before being deported.

How ‘burglary tourists’ from South America jet in and out of London in just two days after raiding as many mansions as possible

Colombian mother-of-two Claudia Santos, 40, helped mastermind as many as 800 burglaries targeting Asian families across Britain

South American gangs of burglars have targeted hundreds if not thousands of homes in the UK over the past decade with at least 100 thieves a year coming to the UK to raid mansions.

Police launched Operation Genire to target the gang flying burglars into UK from Chile.

The probe was launched with the help of the Chilean Embassy after a spate of break-ins in south-west London and Surrey in 2017.

Luxury items worth more than £1m were stolen by the thieves who targeted hundreds of homes then shipped some of the goods out of the country – often within days of their arrival in the UK.

They carefully picked homes that were empty or on the edges of parks or golf courses to ensure a quick getaway.

Previously Scotland Yard launched Operation Phoenix,to target another South American operation. 

That group were largely focused on gold burglaries of Asian families, with hundreds high value jewellery snatches of up to £300,000 each. 

Colombian mother-of-two Claudia Santos, 40, helped mastermind as many as 800 burglaries. 

Many of the offenders were from Colombia or Chile and falsely claimed to be Mexican and Guatemalan and were entering the UK using bogus passports, mainly from Mexico. 

The suspects then flew to Europe and entered the UK via the Eurostar into London.

They based themselves within Hispanic communities in the London boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth and initially all the thefts took place within the capital. Police said they were ‘extremely organised with all offences premeditated, researched and highly sophisticated’.

On arrival in the UK, the suspects were often taken to safe houses and then introduced to a life of crime.

Organisers within the group arranged for them to have access to second-hand vehicles registered to false names with fraudulently obtained insurance. This allowed the gang to travel around the UK and commit crime without fear of being stopped by police.

There had been a dramatic increase in Asian gold burglaries that could be linked to this group with Asian communities such as those in Crawley, Slough and Northampton being specifically targeted. 

Police soon realised that smashing the gangs would need to involve close collaboration and intelligence-sharing between other law enforcement agencies including Home Office Immigration Enforcement, UK Border Force, the National Crime Agency (NCA) and ACPO Criminal Records Office (ACRO)

They also worked closely with the Mexican and Colombian Embassies as the majority of the offenders were believed to be of Colombian origin and staff fully co-operated to provide crucial information.

Working with the UK’s immigration enforcement representative in Bogota, officers were able to share information with the Colombian National Registry Office and forge contacts with the Colombian National Crime Bureau. With the help of the NCA and ACRO, fingerprints of suspects in custody in the UK were sent to be checked against their national register. This confirmed the offenders’ true Colombian identities and any previous convictions.

This process identified around 150 Colombian suspects who had entered the UK using false names, many with serious previous convictions back home for aggravated theft, drugs and violence.

The Met also set up Operation Genie after a spate of burglaries in 2017, suspecting that South American gangs were again behind the burglaries. 

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