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Gang jailed over con at Midland supermarket ATMs

Staffordshire | News | Published:

Three Romanian men have been jailed after being caught with more than £700 in bank notes, which they stole by jamming supermarket cash machines in Staffordshire and the Black Country.

The gang were yesterday sent to prison over the 'sophisticated' enterprise that involved them attaching a metal device to ATMs in Cannock and Smethwick.

The con was designed to make users think the cash they had asked for hadn't come out of the machine.

When the customers walked away thinking the machine was faulty, the men then moved in to remove the device and any money that came out.

They were jailed for between eight and nine months each and it is unlikely they will be deported once released as deportation orders are made where the person is jailed for two years or more – or for 12 months for a sex, drugs or violent offences.

Mr Neil Ahjua, prosecuting, told Staffordshire Crown Court that it was a group enterprise.

Stefan Barut, aged 23, Florin Pavel, aged 25, and Ioan Huja, aged 26, all pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to steal.

They were caught with £740 after investigations into complaints at Asda stores in Cape Hill, Smethwick, and in Avon Road, Cannock, after the cash machines showed 'fault' messages.

"Certain quantities of cash were recovered after being found in the possession of two of the defendants.

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"This case involves a conspiracy to steal funds from automated cash machines by the attachment of equipment in an attempt to trap cash when a customer came along.

"There were two incidents on January 21," Mr Ahjua told the court.

He said staff at the Cape Hill store received reports that a device had been attached to the machine. Checks of closed circuit television images showed the Peugeot car that the three men, of no fixed address, were later spotted in had been at the premises.

Mr Ahjua said problems were also reported at the Cannock store shortly before 6pm when the cash machine displayed an 'out of order' message. Further CCTV checks showed that minutes later Huja and Pavel had been standing near the machine and cash had been trapped in it.

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The police were called and the group were found in the vehicle on a car park nearby. Huja, aged 26, had £590 on his person while Barut, aged 23, had £250. The money was in £10 and £20 notes.

Addresses and postcodes for Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys stores across the country were also found on a sat nav discovered in the car.

Miss Amanda O'mara, defending, Pavel and Barut, a nurse, said: "Stealing from cash machines is a serious offence. Each of these men have been in custody since they were arrested."

Mr Recorder Timothy Raggatt QC jailed Barut for eight months. Pavel and Huja were jailed for nine months. They all must serve half the terms before being released on licence.

Home Office spokesman Simon Alford said:"We will seek to deport people who break our laws. In 2013, we removed more than 4,500 foreign national offenders.

"EU citizens who commit crimes or abuse their right to be in the UK are liable to be removed and can be prevented from returning for up to ten years."

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