image captionAlexandru Stan says he was evicted from his home in Harrow while he was in HMP Wormwood Scrubs
A man cleared of being involved in £26m raids on the luxury homes of three celebrities in west London says he is now sleeping in a car.
Alexandru Stan was acquitted of conspiring to burgle the homes following a high-profile trial.
Watches and jewellery belonging to Frank Lampard and Tamara Ecclestone were among the items taken during a series of burglaries in December 2019.
Mr Stan says the case has left him homeless and he has “lost everything”.
A legal expert told the BBC that there was nothing in place to help people who are acquitted of a crime following a trial.
“This is the system working,” said Dr Hannah Quirk, a reader in criminal law at King’s College London.
“It is disgraceful and it has been dubbed the innocence tax.”
image captionTamara Ecclestone, her husband Jay Rutland and their daughter Sophia had left for Lapland on the morning of the raid at their palatial home
Speaking to BBC London, Mr Stan said he had not even heard of Ms Ecclestone until he was arrested by police last year.
Mr Stan spent nearly six months in custody at Wormwood Scrubs Prison. While on remand he made friends with his co-accused Sorin Marcovici.
“We were scared we would be convicted because we were Romanian,” Mr Stan said. “They [the prosecution] made out we were thieves and terrorised London.
“I knew I had done nothing and I thought I had been framed. If they found me guilty of the burglaries, I risked 14 years in prison.”
image captionA Cartier bangle worth £80,000 was reportedly taken in the raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s home
Isleworth Crown Court heard how the raids at the homes of Mr Lampard, Ms Ecclestone and the family home of duty-free tycoon Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha netted “big money” for a team of burglars. “Fabulous jewellery” was stolen, the majority of which has never been recovered.
In one burglary alone, a £25m haul of cash and jewellery was taken from Ms Ecclestone’s Kensington home. This happened only hours after she left London for a holiday in Lapland with her husband Jay Rutland and their daughter, on 13 December 2019.
Three days before, burglars had ransacked the family home of the late Leicester City owner Mr Vichai.
The first in the series of raids was at the home of Mr Lampard and his TV presenter wife Christine. About £60,000 worth of jewellery was taken when they were out on 1 December.
image captionLeicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter crash in 2018
Mr Stan, Mr Marcovici, Maria Mester and her son Emil Bogdan-Savastru were said to be the “support cast” to a team of burglars, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
All four were unanimously found not guilty by a jury of 11, much to the relief of Mr Stan.
“I thought I was dreaming,” he said. “I have been through hell and no-one can ever know what it is like to lose your home, lose your place at university and everything.”
image captionJurors were shown an image from Maria Mester’s Facebook account, in which she is said to be wearing Ms Ecclestone’s necklace
Mr Stan first moved to London in June 2019 and worked as a porter and waiter.
In July 2020 he enrolled at the University of Suffolk to study for a business degree, but said he lost this place and was evicted from his home in Harrow while in prison on remand.
The 49-year-old says he is struggling to get his life back on track since being released from prison.
image captionSorin Marcovici says his life has been “really bad” since he was arrested
He added: “Mr Marcovici took me in and we sleep a couple of nights with his friends or sleep in his car.
“It is hard to find a place in the pandemic, people are scared to put you in their home. We have nothing.”
Mr Stan said Mr Marcovici was helping him with clothing and food and lets him sleep in his car at night.
image captionThe raids on the west London homes of the celebrities all happened in December 2019
Mr Marcovici, who has a room in a shared house, said his life was “really bad” and he could not find a job because of lockdown.
He said: “No-one helps us. Every morning Mr Stan tries to do something for each of us, but no-one is helping.
“How they have left us on the streets in a pandemic – I have no words.”
image captionNigel Evans said a trial over alleged sexual offences cost him £130,000 in legal fees
Dr Quirk, who used to work at the Criminal Case Review Commission, said that a high-profile victim of the so-called innocence tax was the Conservative MP Nigel Evans, who was cleared of all charges at a trial in 2014.
Dr Quirk told the BBC that when convicted criminals finish a jail sentence, they deal with the Probation Service which helps them acclimatise to life on the outside.
But for those who are acquitted, “there is no involvement with the criminal justice system any more”.
She added: “It is a real problem.”
Two men accused of burgling the three homes are due to go on trial at Isleworth Crown Court in August.
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