Guilty pleas | 

Two men jailed for roles in violent robbery of sex worker at Dublin hotel

Ioan Galben (40) and Samuel Pop (28) both pleaded guilty to robbery and false imprisonment at the Travel Lodge, Swords

Ioan Galben (40) and Samuel Pop (28)

Eimear DoddSunday World

Two men have been handed prison sentences for their roles in the robbery of over €6,000 from a sex worker in a Dublin hotel.

Ioan Galben (40) and Samuel Pop (28) both pleaded guilty to robbery and false imprisonment at the Travel Lodge, Swords on November 11, 2019.

Garda Katie Lennon told Dublin Circuit Criminal Court that the victim had travelled to Ireland to work.

On the day in question, the victim received a call at around 7pm from a man, later identified as Pop, who said he wished to meet her. Arrangements were made and a man subsequently came to her room.

The victim realised that this man, Galben, was not the man she spoke with on the phone. Galben said he was Spanish, but the victim thought he was Romanian.

Galben and the victim had sex, during which his phone rang. He then dressed and opened the door of her room.

Pop and a third man, who is since deceased, entered the room.

The third man put a blade close to the victim's face, demanded money and threatened to kill her.

The victim gave him €200 from her purse, but he also tried to take her gold bracelet.

The third man hit the victim three times in the face. He also tied her wrists and turned the victim to face the wall in the corner of a room.

The court heard that Pop and Galben were looking through the victim's suitcase during this time. They found €6,000, which represented the victim's earnings over the previous five weeks. They also took other items including two phones, cigarettes and lipsticks.

As the men left, the third man damaged the phone in the hotel room. The victim managed to free herself and ran to reception to raise the alarm.

Gardai launched an investigation, and identified a similar incident in Roscommon on October 28, 2019 during which a sex worker was robbed of money.

The three suspects were identified by gardai using CCTV relating to the Roscommon incident. Pop and Galben were later arrested and interviewed by gardai.

Pop identified himself and the others on CCTV. He told gardai his role was as a translator and he did not take part in the assault of the victim.

Pop said he had not wanted to go, but gardai noted that he took part in previous similar incidents.

Galben told gardai that he worked with Pop. He did not identify himself on CCTV, but agreed with a detailed description of his piercings which had been provided to gardai by the victim.

Gardai were told that the money stolen from the victim was taken by others, though some money was recovered from Pop's home.

Galben, of Warrenstown Park, Blanchardstown Heath, Blanchardstown, has 11 previous convictions, including one for robbery.

Pop with an address at Charnwood Court, Clonsilla, Dublin, has four previous convictions including one for false imprisonment.

Both men are currently in custody on counts relating to the Roscommon incident.

A victim impact statement was handed into court on behalf of the victim and read by Kate Egan BL, prosecuting.

The woman said she was left in fear following the incident and was physically and psychologically assaulted. The theft also left her without money to cover her living expenses.

Gda Lennon agreed with defence counsel for Galben that there were no allegations that his client had used threats or violence against the victim.

His client accepts that money had been taken from the victim's suitcase, but does not agree that he took the cash.

Gda Lennon accepted defence counsel's statement that there had been a delay interviewing Galben about this incident due to the Covid-19 pandemic and that Galben did admit he could be seen on CCTV.

His client also apologised and expressed remorse when interviewed by gardai.

Defence counsel for Galben outlined a number of mitigating factors to the court including his client's early plea and apology to the victim.

Galben has two children and his mother is in poor health. Galben left Romania in 2002, initially moving to Spain before coming to Ireland in 2016, where he worked in construction.

Defence counsel said his client fell in with a “bad crowd” and started gambling and taking cocaine. His client contracted TB in prison, has no family support in Ireland and intends to serve his sentence in Romania.

Gda Lennon agreed with Eoin Lawlor BL, defending Pop, that the third man had a leadership role within the group. His client had been given a number to ring, but did not know where the number came from.

His client had been acting under instructions and was under pressure. His role was to act as a translator between Romanian and English.

Mr Lawlor said his client does not agree that he took the victim's money, noting that she was in a corner facing a wall during the robbery. His client expressed concerns about the use of violence, but was shut down by others in the group.

A letter of apology was handed into court on behalf of Pop.

Mr Lawlor said Pop's mother passed away in 2020 while he was in custody. His client worked in Spain as a labourer, then moved to Ireland in 2014. Pop set up a successful business as a tiler, and employed others.

Pop found himself “caught in a web” over this 12-day period and was under pressure to remain involved, Mr Lawlor said.

His client said he did not touch the victim's cash or documents and had hid in the bathroom during some of the incident.

Mr Lawlor said his client was co-operative with gardai, but there is no realistic prospect of his client repaying victim while in custody without family support.

Judge Martin Nolan said it was a “serious matter” as there was “somewhat of a pattern” involving similar types of crimes.

He said the victim was left “terrified” during the incident.

While the third man may have been the one to threaten the victim, Judge Nolan said Pop and Galben were equally culpable as they would have known what was going to happen.

He said the men were “determined” to take the victim's money.

Judge Nolan acknowledged the challenges for foreign nationals serving time in Irish prisons, but said Pop and Galben “deserve extra time in prison” after involving themselves in “criminal misbehaviour”.

Taking the mitigating factors into account, he imposed a five and a half year prison sentence on Galben and handed a three year sentence to Pop.

Judge Nolan said if the men had come before him individually, they would have faced longer sentences.

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