A man has been jailed after he committed 53 thefts in 15 different counties within a nine-month period.

Stefan Balaceanu, 24, of Gordon Road, Ilford, was sentenced to three years after pleading guilty at St Albans Crown Court on Thursday, August 29.

As well as in Essex, Balaceanu had committed similar offences in Hampshire, Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Kent, Leicestershire, Wiltshire, London, Hertfordshire, West Yorkshire, Sussex, Kent, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Cheshire.

Between July 2018 and May 2019, Balaceanu travelled around the country stealing mobile phones, purses, wallets by approaching his victims holding a piece of paper with writing on.

He would speak to them in a foreign language to distract them while stealing their precious belongings and use the paper to hide what he was doing.

It wasn't until the victim would go to use their phones, wallet or purse that they realised they were missing.

On Wednesday, May 22, he was arrested by officers from Hampshire Constabulary after they stopped a vehicle, which flashed up on their ANPR system in Basingstoke.

The defendant was identified as one of the occupants and it was determined that he was wanted for a number of offences.

After his arrest he was transferred to custody in Hertfordshire and remanded.

An inquiry was conducted by Hertfordshire Constabulary's Specialist Investigation Team, supported by fellow officers and staff on the Local Policing Command, to piece together the path of Balaceanu's criminality.

DC James Kier, from the Hertfordshire Specialist Investigation Team, said: "The scale of Balaceanu's offending was very significant.

"It was clear he had no qualms about targeting innocent members of the public after preying on their good natures.

"The was a protracted investigation and involved colleagues from elsewhere in the Constabulary as well as 15 different forces.

"I would like to publicly thank them for their help in gathering evidence because their support ultimately enabled us to achieve a conviction."