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Romanian ATM scammers get sentence reduced if they leave Ireland

CourtsBy Sunday World
An ATM 'trapper' was used
An ATM 'trapper' was used

Two Romanian men convicted of “trapping” ATM cards and recording the PIN numbers with a iPod have had jail terms partly suspended on condition they leave the country.

Gardaí involved in the extensive investigation which culminated in a four week trial involving 80 witnesses and hundreds of exhibits were praised by the judge for their excellent police work.

Vasile Bizau (24) was convicted by a jury following the trial at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court of seven counts of possession of stolen ATM cards and two counts of possession of articles to be used in connection with theft.

Vasile Bizau of Ardmore Avenue, North Circular Road, Dublin committed the offences at locations in Stillorgan, Dundrum and Rathmines on dates in October and November 2014.

Ioan Bizau (31) of South Quarter, Sandyford, Dublin was convicted by the jury during the same trial of seven counts of theft of ATM cards and one count of possession of an ATM card trapper at locations in Stillorgan, Shankill and Rathmines on dates in October and November 2014.

Separately, Ioan Bizau pleaded guilty to having a card trapping device and iPod Nano with video recording capabilities and magnets affixed at Bank of Ireland, Ranelagh on March 20, 2014. He also pleaded guilty to attempting to steal an ATM card on the same occasion.

Judge Melanie Greally imposed a four and a half year sentence on Ioan and a three and a half year sentence on Vasile. She suspended the final year of both terms on condition they leave the country on release and not return for ten years.

Garda Timothy McAuliffe told Maurice Coffey BL, prosecuting, that on March 20, 2014 a man trying to use the ATM at Bank of Ireland in Ranelagh became suspicious after the machine made a strange noise and he was unable to get his card back out.

He left the ATM for a short time and observed a man walking up the street divert his course as he returned. He noticed an iPod Nano affixed to the machine with magnets over the PIN area which appeared to be recording.

Gardaí were able to pull away a card trapping device from the ATM with the man's card inside. Footage of the clothing of the person who affixed the iPad Nano was recorded on the device.

Gardaí stopped a car after noticing two males taking an interest in what was happening at the ATM.

Ioan Bizau was driving the car and wearing identical clothing to the person who had placed the iPod Nano. The iPod charger was also recovered from his car. He was arrested but made no admissions during interview. He was released from custody as a file was prepared on the case.

Gda McAuliffe said the incidents that the two men were convicted of during the trial followed a similar pattern with a card trapping device being fitted to ATMs and a iPod nano recording the input of customer PINs. A man would later remove the stolen ATM cards.

Extensive CCTV capturing the incidents were recovered during the investigation. The men on the footage were said to be wearing distinctive head and foot wear.

Vasile Bizau was arrested by gardaí at Dundrum Town Centre on November 4, 2014 and stolen cards and items used in card trapping were retrieved from a car to which he had the keys.

Fingerprints of Vasile and Ioan were recovered from the car and a cigarette box containing the stolen cards. A search was later carried out at Ioan's apartment in Sandyford and further items seized. Both men were interviewed five times by gardaí and made no admissions.

Ioan has four previous convictions in Ireland and Vasile has one conviction in Romania.

Vincent Heneghan BL, defending Ioan, submitted that the offences might have had the appearance of being sophisticated but were in fact “quite dumb.” He said his client had not the sense to cover his face on CCTV and “wore shoes that could be seen from outer space.”

He said his client had been in the country about five years and had worked initially washing cars and labouring. The father of two has been in custody since his arrest.

Aoife O'Leary BL, defending Vasile, said her client had been captured on CCTV wearing a distinctive hat and had been wearing it on his arrest. She said the married father of two had been a talented footballer in Romania but the income had not been enough to support his family.

She said he had been using his time in custody well but found it difficult.

Both counsel asked the court to take into account the fact their clients were foreign nationals who had no family in this country.

By Fiona Ferguson