A prolific jewellery thief who snatched nearly a quarter of a million pounds worth of valuables from London shops was caught after leaving behind his mobile phone with a selfie as a screensaver at the scene of a crime.
Mechanic Germain Ibrahim Fofana, 27, who blew the money gambling in casinos, received five-and-a-half years imprisonment yesterday for a total of forty-five offences.
Police identified the New York-native, whose father is American and his mother from the Ivory Coast, from the 'selfie' picture on the screensaver of the phone he left at the scene of an £18,000 jewellery theft from Ernest Jones in Kingston-upon-Thames on May 18.
Posing as a customer he entered the shop with a female accomplice, who had a young child in a buggy, at 1.45pm, claiming to be looking for an engagement ring.
He returned alone thirty minutes later and asked to see the two original engagement rings he viewed and a wedding ring to compare styles, running out of the shop when the assistant handed them over.
When police announced the manhunt Detective Sergeant Damion Cumming said: 'In his hurry to get out of the shop, the suspect left his mobile phone on the table alongside his bag.
'While police were on the scene the phone lit up, having received a text message, and a picture of the suspect was saved as the background.
'It was the shop assistant, who served him, who was able to identify the person in the picture.'
Police used the information to tie Fofana, who lived in a modest home in Peckham, to a string of similar offences committed all over the capital.
Yesterday he pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to nine counts of theft and one count of attempted theft, which included the Ernest Jones offence, plus theft of necklaces, watches, rings and bracelets.
He also pleaded guilty to burgling Baden Powell House hostel in Queensgate, South Kensington on January 7; February 20 and April 10. He stole luggage, cameras, an iPod, and an Apple Mac worth at least £1,580.
Fofana had asked for another twenty-six similar theft offences to be taken into consideration, plus five burglaries from London hostels and one burglary of a hotel.
The total haul was worth £237,663, but when arrested Fofana only had £250 cash and a fake Omega watch on him and the court made no order regarding costs and compensation.
'You have showed yourself to be a prolific thief,' Recorder Lionel Persey QC told him.
'The modus operandi was that you went into a shop and asked to see items of jewellery and would snatch the jewellery and run off.
'Your conduct was aggressive and items were of high value and a significant degree of pre-planning went into these thefts and were distressing to staff members.
'I have seen a statement from Links where staff were traumatised and additional security training had to be put in place and it is a severely aggravating feature that seven of the thefts were committed while you were on bail.'
In referernce to the burglaries, Recorder Persey added: 'You were targeting those holidaying in London, young people staying at hostels, a particularly nasty crime distressing to the victims.'
Fofana's lawyer Mr. Oliver Weetch told the court: 'He's co-operated fully with the police in going through a large number of offences and providing information on them.
'The offending is a result of a heavy gambling addiction and a problem with alcohol. Like most gamblers he's lost all his money.'
An Interpol check revealed confusion as to Fofana's conduct in France before coming to the UK, initially suggesting he had convictions for armed robbery, burglary and handling stolen goods then a second enquiry stating he was of good character.
Bungling jewellery theft: Fofana's rap sheet
Yesterday Fofana pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to nine counts of theft and one count of attempted theft.
These charges included the theft of:
• Two rings from Ernest Jones which led to his downfall.
• Jewellery worth £29,770 from Kabiri, Marylebone.
• Two gold chains and two gold bracelets worth £3,675 from Albone.
• Anecklace worth £5,000 from Sinclair Jewellers Wimbledon.
• Jewellery worth £21,520 from Pandora, Cheapside.
• Aring worth £4,500 from Jonathan Greeves, Liverpool Street.
• Jewellery worth £7,600 from Links of London, Royal Exchange.
It also included the attempted theft of one Omega watch, worth £12,950, from Suttons & Robertson, Fleet Street; jewellery worth £30,000 from Links of London, Chelsea; and a gold bracelet and necklace worth £1,770 from McCarthy's.
Finally, he also pleaded guilty to burgling the Baden Powell House hostel, in South Kensington on January 7, February 20 and April 10. He took luggage, cameras, an iPod, and an Apple Mac worth at least £1,580.
- Daily Mail