A gang of ‘vile offenders’ who targeted vulnerable people at ATM machines in Calderdale have been jailed for two years each.
In just one week in March this year the group of Romanian ATM thieves, carried out 13 thefts or attempted thefts from bank customers using ATMs in Brighouse, Elland, Keighley, Halifax and Sowerby Bridge.
A judge jailed 29-year-old “organiser” Ion Matei for two years and his accomplices 19-year-old Wilson Tanase and 18-year-old mum Daniela Pasariou received two-year terms in a young offender institution.
Bradford Crown Court heard that a 13-year-old boy had also been involved in the conspiracy on the day when four attacks took place and he was made the subject of a 12-month referral order.
The court heard that Matei, of Salford Street, Oldham, was alleged by the prosecution to be “the organiser” and he acted as the driver for the two older teenagers.
Prosecutor Mark Brooks said Matei didn’t involve himself directly in the thefts, but he took money from those who did.
Mr Brooks described Tanase and Pasariou, both of Park Lane, Oldham, as “accomplished and skilled” distraction thieves.
The gang targeted mainly elderly men and women as they used ATMs across the county and distracted them by putting a piece of paper or card over the machine as the unsuspecting member of the public was about to withdraw cash.
Mr Brooks said over the period covered by the conspiracy charge, which all the defendants admitted, the gang stole just over £1500 although about half of that was recovered.
The gang activities began with four incidents on March 14 and involved attacks on three victims in their 70s.
Those broad-daylight crimes took place in Elland, Halifax, and Brighouse over the space of less than two hours.
During the spree of offending, which ended with two incidents in Halifax on March 21, two female complainant’s were pushed out of the way in order for the thieves to withdraw cash.
Judge David Hatton QC told the defendants, who were assisted in court by Romanian interpreters, that although their conspiracy was short-lived it was “a despicable spree of offending”.
“During the course of it there were no less than 13 incidents when you, by stealth, distracted the users of ATMs and stole money,” said Judge Hatton.
“It was a planned operation, quite clearly, and involved a not insignificant amount of sophistication in the way you went about it and it was no doubt rehearsed..
“Those that you targeted were in the main older and vulnerable people and you also involved a child in your offending, which is an aggravating feature.
“Despite your ages and lack of significant convictions a custodial sentence in my judgement is inevitable and demanded.
“People are entitled to go about their daily business and use ATM machines without fear that there will be people like you lurking behind them.”
Speaking after the sentence Detective Inspector David Shaw of Calderdale CID said; “These vile offenders targeted the most vulnerable members of our communities through their despicable actions.
“I hope that their conviction and sentences go some way in bringing closure to their victims, but also highlights that we do all we can to detect and tackle criminality on our streets and that we will bring offenders to justice.”