From stealing time to doing time.
On Wednesday, a London court convicted four men for carrying out a spate of watch robberies in the city’s Mayfair neighborhood last spring. The four thieves, who were arrested and charged in July and August, targeted high-end watches—including best replica Patek Philippe Nautilus and Aquanaut watches—and often took them right from the wrists of their victims. The watches ranged in value from about $6,000 to $125,000. None have been recovered.
The thieves worked in concert. Officials say significant tracking, planning, and organization went into the string of thefts, which were carried out from April to May of this year, The Times reports. Salem Belckacem, 30, who is described as the leader of the gang, was convicted alongside Mohammed Amir, Nassim Naele, and Mehdi Houseem Zouhri. According to prosecutors, the thieves enlisted “spotters” to identify people wearing expensive CA top fake watches and then take photos of the pieces. The spotters, according to prosecutors, kept a “strike team” aware of the owner’s movements so they could quickly snatch the cheap copy watches and flee on a moped.
“Force was used in each robbery to wrestle the watch from the owner,” Prosecutor Miles Triff told the Southwark crown court. “[Some victims] speak of soft tissue injuries. These 1:1 Swiss replica watches, we say, not only have high monetary value but high personal significance.”
In at least one instance, the thieves posed as watch admirers. The first victim was robbed on April 3, as he sat outside Cubé, a Japanese restaurant in Mayfair. One of the thieves walked over and took a photo of the victim’s $80,000 Nautilus and then “pulled the Patek Philippe clean off his right wrist.” The second theft happened on April 23 when a man was on the phone outside Bonds, a bar in Mayfair. Three members of the gang reportedly approached him, and when he turned around, they forcibly removed his perfect super clone watches.
In May, the thieves went after a higher-priced timepiece valued at $125,240. Two of the gang reportedly ripped the high quality replica watches off the wrist of a businessman who was shopping with his wife and daughter, shoving his wife to the ground in the process. Two weeks later, one of the thieves enveloped a woman walking near Canry Wharf Tube station in a bear hug while another snatched a $6,000 diamond-encrusted “family heirloom” fake watches for sale off her arm.
The four men are said to be from Algeria and Libya, but were living in Britain illegally. During a search of one of the thieves’ homes in West London, police say they found false identification papers and $25,050 wrapped in clingflim. The men now face sentencing for a slew of crimes ranging from robbery and assault to perverting the course of justice.