Warehouse workers devised plot to steal Moschino, Michael Kors and Kurt Geiger goods

Mariana Dobre and Stefan Murgan outside Liverpool Crown Court
Mariana Dobre and Stefan Murgan outside Liverpool Crown Court -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Warehouse staff devised a scheme which allowed them to steal luxury Moschino, Michael Kors and Kurt Geiger goods by buying tablets and chocolate bars.

Stefan Murgan and Mariana Dobre attempted to pinch more than £20,000 of stock from their workplace by dispatching falsely labelled parcels filled with high value items to their own homes. This haul also included a watch, Ugg boots and Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Tommy Hilfiger and Lacoste gear.

Liverpool Crown Court heard yesterday afternoon, Friday, that both defendants were employed at the Hut Group's warehouse in Warrington and would order low value goods via the company to be delivered to their houses. Once these packages arrived, the labels would be peeled off their boxes and reused on other parcels which were filled with expensive items which were stored on site.

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Catherine Ellis, prosecuting, described how this stock would then fraudulently be shipped to their houses without being purchased. This allowed them to pilfer goods worth a total of £23,756.

But their swindle was rumbled on December 17 2022 when a conveyor belt detected parcels which were heavier than expected and packaged in boxes which were too large for the products they were meant to contain. Three were due to be delivered to Murgan's house in the name of his partner, who has a different surname from him.

One of these should have contained collagen capsules but two pairs of Ugg boots, two Michael Kors bags and a Kurt Geiger bag worth a combined £921 were instead found inside. Another was box was supposed to be used to ship only a protein bar, but actually contained items valued at £2,037.48 - including a Polar Grit X multisport watch, two Marc Jacobs bags, a Paul Smith bag and a Vivienne Westwood wallet.

The third package should have contained a box of multi vitamins. However, it was instead used in an attempt to send out a Moschino bag, a Lacoste beanie hat and a United Oddsocks gift set worth £211.49 collectively. A fourth parcel was also destined for Dobre's property in her son's name, he again having a different second name to his mother.

This box was meant to ship only a vegan chocolate bar. However, it instead contained two Michael Kors bags, a Tommy Hilfiger bag, a pair of Converse shoes and other items of clothing, as well as Gillette shaving products - loot valued at a total of £833.50.

CCTV footage showed Murgan, of Radway Road in Huyton, packing two of the boxes with items which had not scanned and attaching labels which were taken from the pocket of his hoodie. Dobre, of Dean Road in Salford, was seen packing another box which was sealed by the 43-year-old's co-defendant.

When Murgan's home was searched, police officers found boxes containing a further £19,752.53 of high value goods which had been fraudulently obtained from his employer. Ms Ellis told the court that "at least one other picker is thought to have been involved, but was never traced".

Stefan Murgan
Stefan Murgan -Credit:Facebook

Murgan has three previous convictions for four offences, for motoring offences in February and March 2022 and failing to comply with a community order. David Woods, appearing on the 28-year-old's behalf, said: "This offence was committed because of financial issues.

"He had accrued a great deal of debt primarily because, for a period of time, he was unable to work. He did, at one time, lose his driving licence, which severely restricted his ability to get to places of work.

"Christmas was approaching. He was under a number of financial pressures.

"He has children aged three, nine and 10 and succumbed to the temptation to take those goods. At the time he took this employment, it was clear to him that this operation of theft or fraud was going on amongst others.

"Others were doing it, and he saw it. He was tempted.

"He is extremely sorry. Ultimately, all of the items were recovered and none of them had been sold and converted into cash.

"He is a Romanian who has been working and living in this country for some time. They are hard working people and they have, for the most part, been in employment for the whole time they have been here.

"He continues to be a hard working man. He works for a leading supermarket in the cold store at a warehouse.

"His partner is also working in a restaurant. He is responsible for taking the children to primary school in the morning, collecting them in the afternoon and being responsible for their care."

Dobre has no previous convictions. Her counsel Arif Ashraf told the court: "The total involvement for Ms Dobre does come down to £833.

"She has been hard upon herself. She has been totally devastated.

Mariana Dobre
Mariana Dobre -Credit:Facebook

"She feels she has not just let the company down but herself, her own morality and her own being inside of her. She has been contemplating suicide.

"She is extremely sorry for something she would never think of doing again. She has a completely unblemished record.

"She is keen to pay back what she can to the community. She wants to be at peace with herself and her god.

"She is a very devoted Roman Catholic, I understand. She is working for Aldi.

"She has been happy in work, working extraordinarily hard. She works, on average, about 25 hours a week and she is a store assistant.

"She has got difficulties paying back a number of debts. She is in a very bad, vulnerable financial position."

Both Murgan and Dobre, who were assisted by an interpreter in the dock, admitted fraud by abuse of position. She was handed a four-month imprisonment suspended for a year, 85 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 10 days as well as being told to pay court costs of £500.

Murgan was seen wiping tears away as she was allowed to leave the dock. He then smiled after being given 16 months suspended for two years, 200 hours of unpaid work, a 25-day rehabilitation activity requirement and £500 in costs.

Stefan Murgan outside Liverpool Crown Court
Stefan Murgan outside Liverpool Crown Court -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Sentencing, Recorder Mark Cooper said: "This is a high culpability case. You abused a position of trust, and there was an element of planning."

To Dobre, the judge said: "You have no convictions. It is clear that you are genuinely remorseful.

"In my judgement, this offence was an isolated incident. An immediate custodial sentence would not only jeopardise your job but also your home."

Turning to Murgan, Recorder Cooper added: "To some extent, the offence is aggravated by your previous convictions. Although these are for driving matters, they were committed not long ago.

"It is significant that it has taken some considerable period of time for you to be sentenced. I also bear in mind the debt that you had incurred due to the loss of your previous employment.

"In my judgement, long term change to your mentality is more likely to be accomplished with support in the community and an immediate custodial sentence would have a severe impact upon your partner and young children. It is primarily for that reason that I have considered that it is appropriate to suspend the sentence in your case as well."

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