Northern Ireland

Newry court: ATM fraud accused 'part of organised gang'

Newry Magistrates Court
Image caption The two men appeared at Newry Magistrates Court on Saturday

Two Romanian men, described as being members of an "organised travelling crime gang", have been charged with ATM frauds across Northern Ireland.

Appearing at Newry Magistrates Court on Saturday were Iulian Stamate, 46, and Andrei Untara, 26, both said to be based in London.

The 21 offences are alleged to have occurred between 16 December last year and 26 May this year.

Both men were remanded in custody to appear in court again on 8 June.

Mr Stamate, faces eight charges, including the theft of £240 from Cardtronics, five counts of possessing articles for fraud and two of making skimming devices for fraud.

Mr Untara faces 13 charges, including the theft of unknown monies from Cardtronics, seven counts of possessing cloned cards, blades and skimming devices for fraud and five counts of making cards and skimming devices for fraud.

Giving evidence to the court, a detective constable said police objected to the men being released on bail as they were likely to commit further offences, abscond or interfere with the ongoing investigations by disposing of evidence or alerting others who are also suspects.

She described the men as "members of a UK/Republic of Ireland-based organised travelling crime gang".

She alleged they had been "targeting ATMs with sophisticated skimming devices" across Northern Ireland with incidents reported in east Belfast, Portadown, Enniskillen, Rostrevor, Magherafelt and Newry.

In addition, the detective said skimming devices the PSNI had uncovered had similarities to one which was used in the north of England.

She said the two men were arrested in a black Ford Mondeo car which had been circulated as wanted in connection with the discovery of a skimming device at an ATM in Rostrevor, County Down, on 23 May.

The car was spotted at a Spar shop on the Gortin Road in Omagh three days later, with Mr Untara driving and his alleged accomplice in the passenger seat.

CCTV footage

When police searched it, the court was told they uncovered cut-up gift cards which they suspected "were used or were about to be used to facilitate the download of information from ATMs," a number of blades and two high visibility jackets, leading officers to suspect the pair had been putting them on to disguise themselves as work men before using the blades to cut away the facade of the ATM in order to place the skimming devices.

The detective said there was CCTV footage of men believed to be the two defendants at several crime scenes and that the black Mondeo car had also been spotted at "a number of locations of the crimes".

She said when the pair were arrested and interviewed they "gave conflicting accounts" of why they were in Northern Ireland and of their living arrangements.

'Not amateurs'

While their defence solicitor had no questions in cross examination, he submitted that as the police had their passports, "that would be a bar to them leaving the country".

Refusing bail however, a district judge said it seemed to him to be a "sophisticated operation... well planned and well thought through."

"These are not amateurs," declared the judge adding that he believed there was a "real risk" of them fleeing and committing further crimes.

"I cannot think of any conditions that would guarantee reappearance or non offending in the interim and that being the case, it's my duty to remand them in custody," he said.