Man in court over 'international fraud' ATM cloning

Automatic teller machine (ATM)

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A man accused of being part of an ATM cloning scam in County Down which formed part of an alleged international fraud inquiry has had his bail hearing delayed at the High Court.

Ionel Paraschi, 26, of Carrigart Crescent, Tullygally, Craigavon, is accused of going equipped for theft after being stopped at a checkpoint.

The court heard police seized dozens of phone top-ups cards containing bank account details which sell for £1,000.

Mr Paraschi denies the charges.

He is alleged to have had mobile phone top-up cards, latex gloves and various tools.

Equipment including a cordless drill, spray paint, a Stanley knife and glue possibly for use to put a false front onto a bank machine were also seized after Mr Paraschi and another man were stopped at a vehicle check point, the judge was told.

The car they were in was allegedly seen in the area of an ATM in Banbridge which was discovered to have been adapted to clone bank cards last October.

Mr Paraschi also faces charges of possessing articles for use in frauds - including the front cover of an ATM, card readers, circuit boards and spray paint - and handling stolen goods, namely 233 Debenhams gift cards.

A Crown lawyer claimed top-up cards discovered in his wallet included one with PIN numbers on the rear magnetic strip.

Items suspected of being used in skimming were seized along with financial details and a laptop computer, the court heard.

The prosecution barrister claimed the scam involved trying to access users' bank accounts and clone information.

"One lady who used the ATM in Banbridge, within hours of her use of the machine someone attempted to use her card in Russia," she said.

"This is a very overwhelming investigation. It is an international fraud investigation."

Opposing bail, the barrister said: "Police believe this is a highly organised international crime gang who are skimming money from bank accounts of innocent bank customers."

Mr Paraschi was said to have been in Northern Ireland for only a month before his arrest last October.

Declan Quinn, defending, argued that his client has no criminal record and was likely to be kept in custody for at least 15-months before the case is likely to get to trail.

Adjourning the application for a week, the judge said he was allowing time for checks to be carried out on an Armagh-based Romanian couple prepared to act as sureties.

Mr Justice Treacy also requested more details on the time scale for the case and for Mr Paraschi's passport to be sent from Romania.

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