The girls, who were sold to a Serbian gang boss for up to €80,000, would be dropped off in villages or suburbs of towns around the south of France and would break into as many as a dozen houses a day before bringing their loot back to the travellers’ camp they were based in near Avignon.
“The burglars rang the doorbell and if noone answered they would go in and rob whatever they could,” said gendarme officer Laurent Rougès, saying that the crimes were committed last year in towns stretching from Perpignan in the southwest to Cannes on the Riviera.
A majority of the burglaries took place however in the Gard department of which Nimes is the capital.
“They were mostly interested in jewellry, gold, and luxury watches,” Rougès told Objectif Gard news website.
The crime spree came to an end in January when police, after a five-month long investigation, arrested eight people at a travellers’ camp in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, located across the river from the main town of Avignon.
They later learnt that girls such as the pair they arrested were being sold by their own families to the crime network, for prices ranging from €40,000 to €80,000.
When police made their arrests of the suspects this year, they also seized six kilos of stolen gold, 430 pieces of jewellry or other items of value, €25,000 in cash, and 40 luxury watches.
Police said they would over the coming weeks post pictures of the stolen goods on the Gendarmerie du Gard Facebook page in the hope of tracking down their owners.
They put some of the recovered goods on display when they held a press conference this week to give details of their operation against the burglar gang.