Using Instagram and Acrobatics, Thieves Targeted V.I.P.s in Milan

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Eleonora Incardona’s opulent posts of herself on the beach or dressed to the nines with chunky watches and golden necklaces were intended to catch the eye of her 470,000-plus followers on Instagram.

But her meticulous documenting of the glamorous lifestyle of an internet influencer seems also to have grabbed some unwanted attention.

On a Saturday in December, a group of thieves, dressed to blend in with Milan’s fashion set, watched as Ms. Incardona left her apartment building, where she stopped to make another Instagram video announcing that everyone, including her pet Chihuahua, Oliver, had left her home. The thieves could be confident that the coast was clear. They scaled the wall — with “circuslike” skill, the police said — and made off with Chanel and Louis Vuitton handbags and assorted jewels.

And Ms. Incardona was apparently not the only victim.

This week, the police in Milan arrested a group on suspicion of having taken tens of thousands of euros in watches, scarves, designer bags and jewels from the apartments of Milanese V.I.P.s.

Prosecutors said the evidence against them included security camera footage of the gang climbing gutters and stolen merchandise found in their possession. The police also wiretapped a conversation in which the men discussed the Instagram accounts of Ms. Incardona and other targets — a soccer star and a TV presenter — and collected screenshots of their posts.

“For me it’s important to share,” said Ms. Incardona, 31, who had posted pictures of herself eating cookies at Tiffany’s while the thieves emptied her closets. She said she made her living sharing her daily routine, and chalked up the theft to a professional hazard. “Looks like the thieves also appreciated my pictures with my pretty things,” she noted.

Marco Calì, chief of the Milanese police unit that ran the investigations, said that Ms. Incardona “had posted pictures in which she showed where she kept her bags, her nice shoes.”

“That was an assist” for the criminals, he added.

Mr. Calì said that the thieves were incredibly skilled at climbing up and down walls. To rob the apartment of another victim, Diletta Leotta, a TV presenter, they descended two floors from a terrace, he said.

Francesca Crupi, the prosecutor in the case, said, “We call them the acrobat thieves.” She added that the criminals were “young and fit guys dressed like they were going to a Milan nightclub.”

Ms. Crupi said that the case was the first time investigators’ work had pointed to such a clear and instrumental use of Instagram for burglaries. “The message is that you must not publish stuff,” she said.

Ms. Incardona said that she had learned her lesson. She now only posts videos of places after she has left them to mislead potential thieves. But, she noted, even her case showed that Instagram could be a force for good as well as bad.

In the background of a video her roommate posted as they left the apartment on the day of the theft, the police noticed a man in a dark coat talking into a cellphone on the sidewalk.

Officers later told them that the man was one of those later arrested.

“They compared my stories with the closed-circuit television footage to identify him,” Ms. Incardona said. “Instagram detective.”



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