Italian Carabinieri police on Thursday said they seized more 1,665 cars used by a Romanian criminal network to rob people in the streets of northern Italy and Spain.
As part of the same sting, eight people were placed in pre-trial detention and one under house arrest.
Some suspects were apprehended in Spain and Britain with the use of European arrest warrants.
The Carabinieri said in a statement that in more than two years of investigations, they had found evidence of 102 thefts or robberies committed by 42 Romanian suspects from the Roma ethnic minority.
“The suspects would typically drive around and stop to ask a passer-by for directions.
“A woman would get out of the vehicle and deftly steal a watch or other valuables while pretending to hug the victim. The usual targets were older people,” police said.
Police added that the suspects made several millions which they reinvested in luxury cars and villas they flaunted on social networks.