Romanian gang arrested for stealing $590,000 in Apple iPhones from a moving truck

Posted:
in iPhone edited July 2017
Police in the Netherlands have arrested a gang of Romanian thieves suspected of stealing iPhones worth 500,000 euros ($590,000), with the gang said to have used a high-risk technique of breaking into the back door of delivery trucks while they were still in motion on a highway.




Five men were arrested at a holiday cottage in Ede, the Netherlands, which was used as a hideout to store the iPhones as well as a modified van thought to be used by the gang for the heists. According to De Telegraaf, the gang is thought to have been in operation since early 2015, and may have attacked 17 trucks and delivery vehicles in that time.

The technique required one gang member to drive the van behind the target vehicle, while another climbed through the sunroof and stood on the hood, fitted with an anti-slip mat. With a third holding them still, the member on the hood would break the rear doors of the truck, sometimes using tools like a grinding wheel to bypass locks, before entering the truck and passing boxes of merchandise back to members waiting on the van.

The following van would go undetected until it was too late for the truck driver to respond, as the van would be hidden in a blindspot right behind the truck. In some instances, robbers would use a second or third car, with one in front used to slow the truck down, and another to prevent the truck driver from changing lanes.

The heists typically took place at night, making it easier to hide the van and to avoid being spotted by other drivers. The gang also operated mainly on the Duiven-Eindhoven and Duiven-Waalwijk routes, roads usually taken by truck drivers, with the cottage hideout located a short distance away from the highways.

The technique, named the "Romanian Method," dates back to 2008, according to the Eindhovens Dagblad, with truck drivers in Germany initially not believed by security forces until surveillance discovered the theft claims were genuine. Since 2014, similar thefts have been reported in Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, but it is unclear if it is one or multiple gangs performing such activities.





In May 2012, Romanian police released footage of one such attempt at breaking into the back of a truck, filmed from a police helicopter. The video shows the activity takes place at relatively high speeds, with a passenger clearly seen holding on to one member of the gang opening up the back of the truck, before returning back inside their vehicle.

Expensive handheld electronics, such as iPads and iPhones, are the biggest targets for such thefts, with gangs aiming to attack transport companies that deliver goods for electronics manufacturers. While police know little about how the gangs know which vehicles to aim for, it is speculated that members hang out in truck stops and listening in to conversations between drivers to discover their cargo.

The iPhones discovered in the hideout are believed to have been stolen during a heist on July 24, on the A73 highway. The five men, aged from 33 to 43, will go before a judge on Tuesday.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 24
    pbruttopbrutto Posts: 29member
    Like a movie! Awesome method of theft, not very discreet though....

    dispatch text: “bill your being robbed pull over!”

    driver bills phone: “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.”
    edredpeterhartjony0muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobrajbdragonlolliver
  • Reply 2 of 24
    This should be a movie: The Romanian Job.
    peterhartdacharpscooter63willcropointwatto_cobralolliver
  • Reply 3 of 24
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 11,694member
    That is insane. Insanely dangerous.
    hammeroftruthhodarpscooter63jbdragonlolliver
  • Reply 4 of 24
    edac2edac2 Posts: 28member
    These Fast & Furious Romanians will probably break out of jail using an equally theatrical method.
    peterhart
  • Reply 5 of 24
    peterhartpeterhart Posts: 135member
    pbrutto said:

    dispatch text: “bill you're being robbed pull over!”

    driver bills phone: “I’m driving with Do Not Disturb While Driving turned on. I’ll see your message when I get where I’m going.”
    LOLOLOLOL. Perfect.
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 6 of 24
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,778member
    Damn... while movies like "The Fast and the Furious" makes this kind of stunt almost believable, it takes a serious set of cajones to pull this stunt off in real life.  That truck could simply have hit the brakes and that guy on the hood may have become hamburger meat, or the human version of "Lee Press-on Nails".

    Meanwhile, Android phones on palettes are left to gather dust. :)
    Solijony0radarthekatwatto_cobrajbdragonlolliver
  • Reply 7 of 24
    hammeroftruthhammeroftruth Posts: 1,098member
    It can't be that many iPhones. How would you get a pallete of iPhones off a speeding delivery truck without dropping it or killing yourself or alerting the driver? 
    Cutting the door makes noise. Opening the door makes noise. Some trucks have alarms if the door is opened or left open. 
    Sounds like the driver is in on it. 
    Soli
  • Reply 8 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,031member
    I’d think after 5+ years you’d be free and clear of this sort of crime. I’d be incorrect.
  • Reply 9 of 24
    SoliSoli Posts: 10,031member
    It can't be that many iPhones. How would you get a pallete of iPhones off a speeding delivery truck without dropping it or killing yourself or alerting the driver? 
    Cutting the door makes noise. Opening the door makes noise. Some trucks have alarms if the door is opened or left open. 
    Sounds like the driver is in on it. 
    The sound is easily drowned out by engine and road noise plus many feet of material between the driver and the backdoors, and the car may be entirely in its blind spot, but to maintain a constant speed my first thought is to wonder if there was some sort of communication between the drivers.
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 10 of 24
    netroxnetrox Posts: 1,083member
    How can you steal iPhones and successfully sell them when they are clearly traceable?
    radarthekatwillcropointwatto_cobrajbdragonanton zuykovlolliver
  • Reply 11 of 24
    hodarhodar Posts: 338member
    It can't be that many iPhones. How would you get a pallete of iPhones off a speeding delivery truck without dropping it or killing yourself or alerting the driver? 
    Cutting the door makes noise. Opening the door makes noise. Some trucks have alarms if the door is opened or left open. 
    Sounds like the driver is in on it. 
    Possibly the driver is on it; but odds are high he is not.

    Consider, a GANG of robbers is breaking into the truck you are driving.  If you pull over, they will beat/kill you and take everything.  If you resist, by hitting the breaks and causing one or more of the robbers to be killed; they may open fire on you.  If you drive and ignore them, they take what they came for, and you live to drive another day.  Remember, some countries do not allow regular folks to own guns; guns are for the police, army and law-breakers.  You are likely alone, or perhaps part of a 2-man team.  This is a GANG.  What would you do?
    lolliver
  • Reply 12 of 24
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,407member
    Posters above are correct, it's like a movie in fact I bet they go the idea from a movie.  To paraphrase a well known Steve Jobs beloved paradigm it's the intersection of a heist and art.
    edited July 2017
  • Reply 13 of 24
    BremsyBremsy Posts: 1member
    Soli said:
    I’d think after 5+ years you’d be free and clear of this sort of crime. I’d be incorrect.
    You are free after 12 years for a crime with a penance > 6 years. This is in the Netherlands. I don't know about Romania.  It is not clear yet where they will go to trial. 
    Soli
  • Reply 14 of 24
    robin huberrobin huber Posts: 3,504member
    Mirrors or back up cam could have prevented this. That, and hitting the breaks hard. 
    macgui
  • Reply 15 of 24
    Wouldn't a camera on the back of the truck just solve this problem instantly?
    anton zuykov
  • Reply 16 of 24
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,052member
    Mirrors or back up cam could have prevented this. That, and hitting the breaks hard. 
    Yep. Add to that radar or motion sensors like backup alarms since the driver can't watch the camera all the time. And maybe a few hundred watts worth of 6500ºK LED lighting.

    But like any scenario, it's a matter of dealing with the expected as opposed to the unexpected. Much of crime prevention is reactive, not proactive. Nobody ever expects the Spanish Inquisition.


    Cutting the lock and opening the doors are easily drowned out by engine road noise. It's not like their driving a Lexus or Coup seville. That the crimes are committed at night can drastically reduce the odds of being spotted. That's what lookouts are for.

    NASCAR driver routinely draft within inches of  competitors' cars at well over 100mph without their cooperation. Matching much slower speeds is easy. People do it on freeways every day. It's just that these guys add a real element of risk.

    LIKELY that the driver was in on it? Doubtful. If so, they just pull the truck over and empty it accordingly, and drive on.

    As far as GANG activity goes let's not get carried away by loony thinking. If these gangs were that dangerous, they'd just use the blocking car to slow the truck to a stop and hijack or rob it instead of burglarizing it. If these were Albanian gangs, that might be a completely different story.

    As for the possible bricking of iPhones, I do wonder why they continue to be a target of thieves on a large scale basis. In my neighborhood the strong-arm thefts of commuters' iPhones and iPads has dropped dramatically. (Also Find My iPhone is a BIG help.) It could be the phones are sold to people who don't suspect they're stolen and find out at some later point. I dunno.
  • Reply 17 of 24
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,052member
    The technique, named the "Romanian Method," dates back to 2008, according to the Eindhovens Dagblad, with truck drivers in Germany initially not believed by security forces until surveillance discovered the theft claims were genuine.

    This is the result of typical pinhead thinkers who jump to conclusions without any facts in evidence. "They must be in on it." Again, the result of reactive and not proactive action. 

    Similar activity has occurred here in the States where crooks on foot would break a padlock and open a truck, and tossing merchandise out to co-conspirators. UC cops were placed in 'bait' trucks with chase cars advising of criminal entry. Pretty funny to watch the crooks getting surprised.

  • Reply 18 of 24
    hodar said:
    If you resist, by hitting the breaks and causing one or more of the robbers to be killed; they may open fire on you. 
    An old trucker's game my grandpa got involved in from banking/insurance side, they used to slam the brakes if some wannabe nascar guy sucked along in their draft, resulting in a major crash with no possibility of the car driving after, trucker's grinning  story was avoiding a poor lil fawn crossing the highway. Nobody's going to be able to get near the truck from the car after a crash.
    Pro drivers have nerves of steel and 'brains'. Romanian thieves , at least many, are clever at their craft but not so smart. Risk level for that kind of stunt are way beyond pro racing, and it takes a high degree of stupid (some shrinks call it 'death wish mindset') to be the man on the hood and the driver in the draft. Spent an afternoon with a Romanian pro thief  while researching a script, and had to admire the street smarts at three card monte and other dupes on the MariahilferStrasse in Vienna. Clever, not too smart.
  • Reply 19 of 24
    jungmarkjungmark Posts: 6,878member
    It can't be that many iPhones. How would you get a pallete of iPhones off a speeding delivery truck without dropping it or killing yourself or alerting the driver? 
    Cutting the door makes noise. Opening the door makes noise. Some trucks have alarms if the door is opened or left open. 
    Sounds like the driver is in on it. 

    If the driver was in on it, wouldn't be safer to just be car jacked?

    how much noise? Enough to overcome closed windows, radio, road noise? 

    Obviously they don't remove the entire pallet at once. 

    "A" for effort on the method and execution. 
  • Reply 20 of 24
    netrox said:
    How can you steal iPhones and successfully sell them when they are clearly traceable?
    I was wondering about that. Don't the guys have the serial numbers or IEMI of the iPhones being shipped? In that case, Apple could be warned about the robbery and disable the devices on its activation servers making them useless bricks?
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