A woman has been sent to prison after secretly swapping seven pebbles for £4.2 million ($5.7m) worth of diamonds in a heist at a luxury jewellery store in London’s Mayfair district.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, was sentenced on Wednesday to five and a half years in prison after a jury at Southwark Crown Court in London found her guilty of conspiracy to steal.
Lakatos was part of an international gang that fled to France after stealing the diamonds from Boodles on New Bond Street on March 10, 2016. The gems have not been recovered.
“This was an audacious theft carried out in plain view of experienced and professional staff at a renowned jewellers,” Det Sgt William Man of London’s Metropolitan Police Service said.
“The meticulous planning and execution of this theft reveals to me that those involved were highly skilled criminals.”
In the days before the heist, the criminals held meetings with Boodles staff, pretending they represented a wealthy Russian investor who was looking to buy gems, police said.
Lakatos, who was born in Romania and lived in France, posed as a gem expert named “Anna” who went to Boodles to value seven diamonds for the buyer.
After she inspected the gems, which included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than £2.2m, they were individually wrapped and placed in a locked bag that was supposed to be held in the jeweller’s vault until payment was received.
But when Boodles’ expert became suspicious the next day, the bag was X-rayed and the store found seven ordinary pebbles.
Lakatos used a distraction to swap the bag containing the diamonds for an identical one containing the pebbles before it was locked in the vault, security camera footage showed.
After leaving the store, she handed the bag containing the diamonds to one of her female accomplices, before ditching the long coat, hat and scarf she wore and boarding a high-speed Eurostar train to France.
She was arrested on a European warrant last September and returned to Britain to stand trial.
Two men who worked with Lakatos previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and were each sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
Police are still investigating the involvement of two other women.