Two men accused of recruiting kids for $2m robbery gang

Rachael Ward |

Police seize cigarettes that were allegedly stolen by a gang of child thieves.
Police seize cigarettes that were allegedly stolen by a gang of child thieves.

Charges have been laid against two alleged ringleaders of a gang that used children to steal more than $2 million in cash and cigarettes.

Police allege the Burwood and Ferntree Gully men, both 19, recruited more than 20 children aged 12 to 17 to carry out more than 140 burglaries and armed robberies in Melbourne’s east.

They allegedly provided the children with stolen vehicles and gave them the locations of service stations, supermarkets and tobacconists to target.

Both men were charged with a string of serious offences and were due to appear at the Melbourne Magistrate’s Court on Thursday afternoon.

The Ferntree Gully man is facing charges such as home invasion and assault with a weapon while the Burwood man is facing armed robbery, aggravated burglary and car theft offences.

Officers say they seized more than $243,000 cash as well as cigarettes and vapes from the Burwood man’s home.

Police with a person during a raid.
Police speak to a man on Wednesday during a raid on a property in connection to tobacco thefts. (HANDOUT/VICTORIA POLICE)

On Wednesday, detectives revealed they also arrested two cigarette vendors, one aged 33 from Burwood and the other a 53-year-old from Silvan, who they alleged the cigarettes were sold to as part of the theft network.

They were both released pending summons.

It comes as a third child was arrested over two fires at tobacco shops in Glenroy earlier in May.

The Keilor boy, 15, has been charged with criminal damage by fire and car theft.

Police revealed he was charged as part of the Taskforce Lunar probe, with detectives investigating more than 60 arson attacks believed to be linked to a dispute between organised crime syndicates over profits from illicit tobacco.