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Cloned cards ATM thief jailed for six and half years after pleading guilty to stealing over €120,000

Danile Munteanu (32) was arrested in March, 2019, after a garda surveillance operation

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Danile Munteanu

Danile Munteanu

Danile Munteanu

A father-of-two was jailed today for six and half years after he pleaded guilty to stealing more than €120,000 from ATM machines using cloned cards in a sophisticated operation where bank machines in several counties were targeted over a five-month period

Romanian national Danile Munteanu (32) received the sentence at Trim Circuit Court today after the evidence against him was outlined at a previous sentencing hearing.

Judge Martina Baxter stated that the headline sentence for the criminal was eleven years but she reduced this to seven and gave a further six months off in mitigation.

Commending the work of gardai on the case, she outlined the “huge geographical spread” of the crime which was a “well planned and sophisticated enterprise.”

He was arrested at the Co Meath address where he lived in March, 2019, after a garda surveillance operation and has been in custody ever since.

Trim Circuit Criminal Court heard that hundreds of transactions where cloned cards had been used to withdraw money from the accounts of innocent Bank of Ireland customers were carried out in counties including Monaghan, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Galway, Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin.

Some customers had their entire accounts cleared out as amounts of up to €700 at a time were withdrawn from them without their knowledge.

The people who were robbed of their money included juveniles and people in their 80s, and one person had more than €7,000 euro stolen from their account.

Bank of Ireland refunded all the money that was stolen from accounts and reported the thefts to gardai.

The court heard that Munteanu has two previous convictions in the UK for similar crimes namely the possession of a skimming device dating from 2010 and 2015. He received eight months in jail for the latter crime.

Judge Baxter told Munteanu that he “fully participated” in the extensive planning and detail that led detectives to discover a skimming factory.

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A fake ATM front was seized by gardai.

A fake ATM front was seized by gardai.

A fake ATM front was seized by gardai.

The investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).

At a previous hearing, Detective Garda Stephen Kelly of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told Judge Baxter that trawling CCTV recorded at the ATMs as well as on the motorway network, as well as information from garda stops and checkpoints, had identified Munteanu as a suspect and an address at Tower Mount, Navan Co Meath was placed under surveillance in December 2018 but appeared to be empty.

But after another spate of thefts on February 23 and 24 2019 at Killester and Dunshaughlin the house was watched again and a warrant obtained to search it.

Gardai raided the house on March 4 2019 and arrested Munteanu.

During a search of the house and a car at the address a large number of loyalty cards with magnetic strips were found, more than 50 of which had stolen bank details overwritten onto them

Det Garda Kelly told the court that cloned cards were made after criminals would place a concealed camera in a fake panel, powered independently with hidden mobile phone batteries, onto the front of the ATM, with the camera looking at the keypad where innocent bank customers would input their PIN.

A second device would be placed around the card entry slot, designed to look like part of the ATM, and skim the details of the card as it was put into the machine.

The criminals would then match the PIN numbers with the skimmed account information and make cloned cards which could be used to withdraw cash from the account at an ATM.

In many cases several transactions were made over a period of days before customers would realise there was something wrong, usually when they went to use their card to pay for something and find there was no money in their account.

Munteanu pleaded guilty to nine charges of theft, each covering multiple transactions, between October 1 2018 and March 3 2019. He also pleaded guilty to nine charges of possession of false instruments, namely cloned bank cards, on the same dates, and of possession of false Romanian ID cards, a false Romanian passport, and a false Romanian driving licence.

He also pleaded guilty to possession of a machine for making cloned cards.

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