Four South American burglary gang members have been jailed for a raid on chef Marcus Wareing’s multimillion-pound home.
Danko Carvajal-Donaire, 20, Claudio Donoso, 20, Nicolas Portilla Astorga, 27, and Jorge Rojas, 22, broke into the Michelin-starred restaurateur’s house in south-west London in October last year.
The Chilean nationals had flown into the UK purely to commit the crime, a tactic used by gang bosses because foreign thieves are harder to catch.
They were caught four days after the raid on Wareing’s Wimbledon home, apparently on their way to another burglary equipped with gloves, torches, a screwdriver and a glass-breaker.
Officers from Surrey Police stopped their black Honda HR-V in Redhill and alerted the Met.
Investigators discovered that two of them – Carvajal-Donaire and Portilla-Astorga – had photographed themselves wearing some of the stolen jewellery, while Rojas was wearing a distinctive necklace, also taken from Wareing’s home, at the time of his arrest.
The Metropolitan Police said the men were each sentenced to 40 months in jail at Kingston Crown Court on Tuesday.
Acting Detective Sergeant Harry Doyle said: “This case concerns organised criminals entering the UK for the sole purpose of committing high-value burglary offences.
“Due to the rapid identification of their criminal methods, the robust response by colleagues in Surrey Police and the thoroughness of the subsequent investigation, these offenders are now safely behind bars.”
Mr Wareing, who is a judge on BBC show MasterChef: The Professionals, praised police for their handling of the case.
He said: “We are pleased that the men have been caught and would like to thank the Wimbledon police for assisting us during this time.
“They made us feel safe and secure again in our home and were utterly brilliant.”
The Metropolitan Police’s investigation, known as Operation Genie, began after a spate of burglaries in south-west London and Surrey in 2017.
Typically, the thieves targeted unoccupied addresses situated in rural areas, often near parks or golf courses.
Investigators believe a South American criminal network is behind hundreds of similar crimes.
It was reported in the Evening Standard that the thieves marked Wareing’s back fence with a small circle of orange paint to show his home was a target.