A MEMBER of a criminal gang who installed a fake front to a busy cash machine and stole hundreds of pounds has been jailed.
Adrain-Mihai Cioara helped set up the sophisticated con at the Nationwide cashpoint at Asda in Fratton, Portsmouth. CCTV showed Cioara and two others, who have not been caught, attaching the convincing fake front to the machine which was fitted with a scanner to clone the cards.
He also hid a tiny camera to record people’s PIN numbers as they tried to withdraw money.
In less than 24 hours the 23-year-old and his gang had drained £1,400 from unwitting shoppers.
A judge said that if the fake front had not been spotted by a member of the public the fraudsters could have got their hands on much more.
Cioara, who came to the UK from Romania illegally in the back of a lorry in 2007, was arrested after police found his fingerprints inside the equipment.
But after he was interviewed and released on bail he went on the run in June 2009 and it was not until he was arrested for a driving offence in London in February this year that police caught up with him.
Prosecutor Richard Withey said it was lucky more money had not been stolen.
‘Clearly the capacity to clone a large number of cards in a very short period of time and take a lot of money from a lot of people’s bank accounts was there,’ he said.
Cioara, of Bideford Close, Edgware, Middlesex, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to steal at Portsmouth Crown Court.
Jeffrey Israel, defending, said Cioara had been trafficked to the UK and put to work by a gang who made him beg for money and wash car windscreens.
‘He had associates within the Romanian community who he knew were involved in this,’ he said.
‘He was struggling for money and he succumbed to the temptation when they asked if he would assist.’
Mr Israel said Cioara had not made the fake machine and had only been paid £300 to install it.
Jailing him for two-and-a-half-years Judge Roger Hetherington said: ‘Plainly the potential to obtain very significant amounts of cash was there and that was the purpose of this conspiracy of which you were a part.
‘It is said you did this for the offer of some modest financial reward.
‘There’s no means of knowing whether or not that is so.
‘You involved yourself with others in a sophisticated operation, removing large amounts of cash from the public.
‘This is a prevalent offence. The message must go out that this sort of offence will be met with significant sentences.’
Police still trying to find accomplices
POLICE are still trying to trace two men who helped Cioara install the fake cash machine front.
While Cioara’s fingerprints were found inside the machine, the other two men left no trace.
And Cioara has refused to give details of the others involved.
Detective Constable Lee Parker, who led the investigation, said: ‘Detectives carried out inquiries spanning a two-year period to bring this suspect before the court to face justice.
‘During the investigation into this case, CCTV footage capturing three men believed to be involved was secured, and can now be released with an appeal for anyone to come forward if they have information about any of the men seen in the footage and their current whereabouts.
‘Offences of this nature are treated seriously by the police, and as such, I would remind people to make regular checks on the security of their personal finances and to report concerns about suspected scams swiftly.’
Anyone with information should contact Portsmouth CID at Fratton Police Station by phoning 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.
Those calling from outside Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, can call police on 0845 045 45 45.