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A prolific thief has been jailed and banned from carrying newspapers or magazines in cafes, pubs and restaurants anywhere in the country for three years.

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Laura Anghel, 20, was handed an ASBO and an 18 month term in a young offenders institute for her part in a gang that swiped phones and valuables from people in Islington establishments after distracting them with magazines and papers, a crime wave known as ‘table-surfing.’

The crooks target people who leave their phone or other valuables on the table and either snatch the item as they walk past, or approach the victim with a bogus story, covering the items with a map or magazine and taking it with them when they leave.

One victim of Anghel’s tactics was sitting in a fast food restaurant when the thief came up to them pretending to be selling newspapers.

She plonked the papers on top of the victim’s phone and when they politely declined to buy any, Anghel took the papers and the stole the phone at the same time.

Anghel, from Sandcliff Road, Kent, was arrested and charged in February, then pleaded guilty to four counts of theft at Blackfriars Crown Court on April 25.

The ASBO also bans her from associating with the other members of the gang in public places.

Sgt Chris Walsh, part of the Angel Bid team said: “Anghel is a career thief who caused misery to victims who were in bars or cafes enjoying themselves by distracting them and then stealing their property from the table. This is a common type of theft and I strongly advise people to take care of their personal property, register your phones at www.immobilise.com. Don’t leave purses or gadgets on tables as thieves are lurking about waiting for an opportunity to strike.

“This ASBO will prevent Anghel from entering any licensed premises in England and Wales for a while and will help to reduce the number of thefts that happen in this manner.”

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