Inside UK’s Romanian gang that drop ‘homeless’ beggars off in Mercedes

Gangs of “Romanian” beggars can earn £100-a-day ferried to hotspots around exclusive parts of London by wealthy handlers driving Mercedes, an investigation has revealed. Mayfair, Regent Street and the West End are just some of the money-making areas being targeted by organised fake-homeless people preying on people’s conscience.

MyLondon carried out an investigation that found those working with the handlers stashed dirty blankets and cardboard signs to be used as props when they went into action.

The paper said each beggar is equipped with a folded piece of cardboard with some variation of ‘homeless, please help, god bless, very hungry’ scrawled in black marker pen.

The handwriting is nearly identical and misspellings are repeated on signs at different locations.

During an extended observation, the beggars, understood to be from Romania, swap positions and exchange props. Around the Ritz they were observed taking smoking breaks also.

A crutch and sign were dropped off by a woman begging on Regent Street at around 6pm to another female.

She stacked the folded cardboard sign on top of her own and slid the crutch beside her. Around 30 minutes later the items were collected by a man with a beard and Peruvian Inca hat who brought a cigarette to the woman who’d stashed them.

It’s understood according to police sources that with groups from Romania, a strict hierarchy was normally at play and, although members were often related, those at the bottom were treated in conditions that would be classified as modern slavery.

The most obvious signs of this structure are the presence of handlers, individuals who transport people into position and oversee their work but do not beg.

Clearly distinguishable from the beggars as they will be dressed well, often in designer gear, they have their own cars.

Often these handlers will be tipped off to other potential opportunities, like theft.

Juan, a bouncer at a night spot that overlooks the alley where cardboard and blankets were stashed, said: “They are very organised, I see them meeting a lot of people in cars who don’t look homeless at all. They have nice clothes and a nice car, a Mercedes.”

“During my day shifts, I see them going to the park and getting ready to beg, in the evening time, they give them flowers to sell. We have to chase them away from our smoking area because they will come up to the tables begging, trying to sell flowers and steal phones.

One thing he believes is, from what he’s seen, the money doesn’t stay in their pocket. “They send it back to Romania,” he continued. “I’ve seen them in the morning going down to the Western Union to transfer money.”

A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: “Police officers regularly patrol areas know for begging. Our response can include enforcement against those begging aggressively and persistently but we aim to balance this with outreach work for those who genuinely need help and support.”

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