Emilio Guerrero-Sepulveda was at times a bespectacled, smartly-dressed and well-groomed middle-aged man who looked more like a businessman than a globetrotting criminal who wreaked havoc at airport arrival lounges, hotel lobbies, West End luxury boutiques and several west London suburbs stealing an estimated £30,000 in valuables and cash.
Guerrero-Sepulveda was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison for 11 counts of theft on 12 October at Isleworth Crown Court.
Detectives described him as a “Chilean man who came to the UK specifically to steal tourists’ money”. Guerrero-Sepulveda, 63, made at least two trips, during which he stole unattended bags – each containing valuables worth up to £7,000 – from south-east Asian tourists at Heathrow Airport and around the capital.
Detectives from the Met’s Aviation Policing Crime Squad had pored over hours of CCTV footage and observed nimble and lightning-fast Guerrero-Sepulveda in full flow at Heathrow Airport between August and September 2015 and March and August this year.
In April this year he targeted a woman who had just arrived at Heathrow Airport on a flight from Nigeria, west Africa. He made away with her bag, containing cash and valuables worth approximately £7,400, from the top of a luggage trolley. In other brazen thefts he stole bags containing as much as £5,000-worth of goods including designer clothes, jewellery and digital devices from unsuspecting victims at the same airport.
Guerrero-Sepulveda was intent on giving detectives the slip as he attempted to board a flight to Santiago in Chile around 21:45hrs on Tuesday, 12 September carrying with him £1,000 presumed stolen cash. The court later heard that he already had similar convictions for theft in France and the US.
His single highest-value theft took place in July this year when he zeroed in on a man eating with a friend and their children at Selfridges on Oxford Street. Guerrero-Sepulveda stole the man’s camera bag which had been placed on a chair. The total value of the items stolen was £8,800.
He ventured deeper into the city and his luck eventually ran out when he was linked to a number of thefts across Westminster and Hillingdon after he was identified in CCTV stills. At around the same time, officers investigating another series of thefts arrested a man in Camberwell, south London. Detectives found in his possession documents with Guerrero-Sepulveda’s name and began making enquiries, ultimately concluding Guerrero-Sepulveda was the same man in the CCTV.
Guerrero-Sepulveda’s modus operandi involved a chameleon-like ability to blend into his crime scenes. In one instance draping his jacket across his arm in disguise as he picked up his victim’s rucksack from the floor and making a cool exit from Monica Vinader jewellers in Mayfair. In another blistering-quick theft from the Ibis Hotel in West Drayton, he circles a handbag placed on a luggage trolley and quickly pounces with his mobile phone clasped to his ear as he pretended to conduct urgent business on the phone. [Watch video below]
On another occasion, Guerrero-Sepulveda callously stole an OAP’s handbag, containing £160 cash, from her mobility scooter while the 84-year-old was shopping at a supermarket in Uxbridge.
Investigating officer PC Tom Blair, of the Aviation Policing Crime Squad, said at the conclusion of the trial: “Guerrero-Sepulveda is a prolific thief. He largely targeted people, he guessed were tourists, and whom he anticipated would be carrying large amounts of cash on them.
URGENT BUSINESS: Guerrero-Sepulveda makes off with a handbag from an hotel lobby | MET POLICE
“He took advantage of people who, unlike him, had come to the UK to enjoy the sights and make good memories, and instead turned their visit into a nightmare.
“The Met is determined to stop thieves like Guerrero-Sepulveda, to keep London safe for tourists. We believe Guerrero-Sepulveda was part of a wider network of tourist-targeting thieves and continue to investigate the involvement of others.
“My advice to anyone visiting London is to beware of distractions and stay alert at all times. Always keep your luggage in your sight and ideally keep it on you. If you are carrying large quantities of cash, do not keep it in one bag alone. Consider wearing a money belt, so you can keep it on you at all times.”
- More crime prevention advice for tourists can be found at: www.met.police.uk/crime-prevention/theft-from-a-person