Cash machine scam across two cities

Published Thursday, 15 November 2012
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Up to 13 bank branches in Belfast and Lisburn were targeted in a cash machine scam plot within 24 hours, the High Court has heard.

Cash machine scam across two cities
Several cash points across Belfast and Lisburn were targeted. (© Pacemaker)

Faults at ATMs in both cities are being connected to trapping devices allegedly used in an attempt to cheat unsuspecting customers, prosecutors revealed.

Details emerged as a man accused of tampering with machines and trying to steal cash sought permission to move to Spain to work.

Gabriel Popa is charged with 15 offences including criminal damage, possession of articles for use in fraud, attempted theft and having false identity documents.

The 28-year-old Romanian national, with an address at The Elms, Malone Road, Belfast, was detained with another man in Lisburn on 5 July.

He was allegedly carrying a screwdriver, scissors, cloned bank cards and a counterfeit Dutch identity card.

The court heard that following arrest he replied: "I'm on holiday." Prosecution barrister Fiona O'Kane said police who tracked the suspects using CCTV cameras discovered Halifax, Bank of Ireland and Northern Bank ATMs in the area were out of order.

She disclosed that traps were used at a total of six bank cash dispensers in Lisburn city centre.

Devices are put into machines immediately after use so that money is withheld from the next customer, the court was told.

Fraudsters can then seize the cash debited to the victim's account.Mrs O'Kane added: "Further enquiries revealed six Ulster Banks and a Santander branch in Belfast had been identified with similar faults on July 4."

A counterfeit card used at those machines before they went out of service was allegedly found on Popa. He has denied any involvement with the trap devices.

A laptop and card-reader was seized from the home of his co-accused.

This man claimed the reading device belonged to a Romanian national but refused to say anything more for fear of reprisals, the court was told.

Popa, who was previously granted bail, was seeking a variation to allow him to take a job offer in Malaga.

Defence counsel Jonathan Browne disputed prosecution claims that his client may not return if allowed to leave Northern Ireland. The barrister argued that Popa could have fled at any time since being released on bail.

He said the accused, who has degrees in management and sports studies, had previously worked in Spain after following his parents there on completion of his education.

However, the application was adjourned until guarantees can be obtained from the proposed employer.

Mr Justice Horner said he would be seeking a £15,000 cash deposit and daily assurances that Popa was still in Malaga working for him.

© UTV News
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