Ringleader behind £4,700 cashpoint thefts in Portsmouth is exposed as international gangster with murder and manslaughter convictions

A ROMANIAN who led a botched operation of stealing £4,700 from cashpoints in Portsmouth was exposed as being an international gangster who has served multiple jail terms – including for murder and manslaughter.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 30th January 2020, 10:18 am

Isidor Baltaret, 58, claimed he was merely the ‘lookout’ as part of a ‘sophisticated’ ambush on Nationwide ATMs on November 8 last year.

But Baltaret, who had gone by his alias of Toader Steclaru to authorities on a previous court appearance and right up to the beginning of his sentencing at Portsmouth Crown Court, was actually a criminal with an ‘extremely long history of international crime’ who had been subject to an EU investigation.

The defendant, who was sentenced to 17 years jail for murder in 1999 in Romania, carried out raids on Nationwide machines in London Road, Hilsea, Commercial Road and Osborne Road between 3am and 4am.

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From left, Roland Bejan, Isidor Baltaret and Adrian Suregiu

The court heard how Baltaret and his two young Romanian accomplices Roland Bejan, 20, and Adrian Suregiu, 27, had gone to each of the machines before making withdrawals.

‘The professional crimes involved using bank cards to withdraw a small amount of £10 before inserting a cash claw to interrupt the normal working of the machine,’ judge Roger Hetherington told the court.

‘You would then use a card to make a large transaction of £800 withdrawals. Because the cash machine was disabled the customer’s account was not debited.

‘You went from one cashpoint to another in a vehicle. One of you kept lookout while the other two withdrew money from the machines.’

The trio were caught out after being spotted in CCTV in Hilsea and Commercial Road acting ‘suspiciously’ before police arrested the men.

Cash of £4,700 and numerous bank cards were found on the defendants and in a vehicle.

All three gave false names and dates of birth when arrested before offering ‘no comment’ to police during interview, prosecutor Matthew Lawson said.

All three denied their real identities – including a first appearance at crown court – until returning for sentencing of the offences when Baltaret’s history of crime was laid bare.

‘He has no previous in the UK however an investigation with authorities in the EU revealed that Toader Steclaru is really Isidor Baltaret who was found to have previous convictions in Romania and Austria,’ Mr Lawson said.

The prosecutor revealed Baltaret’s offending began in 1988 when he served around three years for manslaughter and theft before a series of jail terms from the early 1990s for ‘organised crime theft’ right through to 2017, on top of his murder conviction.

‘(Baltaret) has an extremely long history of international crime that has now taken place in three countries,’ Mr Lawson added.

He left his native Romania after serving his time for murder before travelling to Austria where he continued profiting through organised crime but received jail sentences while in the country for organised crime theft, as well as forgery of official state documentation.

The other two defendants had no previous offences.

Judge Hetherington told Baltaret: ‘I have little doubt you were the ringleader of the enterprise. I also note the blame you placed on the other two by saying you were recruited by them.’

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He sentenced Baltaret, of no fixed address, to three years nine months jail.

Both Bejan and Suregiu were also jailed with the judge ‘wanting to deter’ criminals from such offences.

Bejan, of The Polygon, Southampton, was locked up for 16 months.

Suregiu, of Salford Avenue, Southampton, was jailed for 20 months.

All three defendants admitted nine charges including three counts of theft, three counts of criminal damage, possessing an article, acquiring criminal property and going equipped for theft with a cash claw.

Compensation to Nationwide of £2,417.03 also has to be paid back.