Jail for cashpoint thieves who targeted elderly victims

David Lingurar, Ioan Lingurar, Nicolae Rostas
David Lingurar, Ioan Lingurar, Nicolae Rostas

A gang of Romanian thieves who targeted elderly cashpoint users in Halifax have each been given two-year prison sentences

The gang, which included two brothers, struck in broad daylight last month, after travelling up to Yorkshire from London and today a judge described the attack as planned and organised.

Judge Robert Bartfield also commended the brave actions of 73-year-old Philip Guy who leapt into action to try and detain one of the gang.

Mr Guy was kicked in the face as one of the trio fled the scene and Judge Bartield awarded him £500 from public funds for his brave actions that morning.

Bradford Crown Court heard how the trio had been lying in wait in the Rawson Street area and moved in as 66-year-old John Byrnes and 78-year-old Kathleen Griffiths tried to use the side-by-side cashpoints

Prosecutor David Lampitt said the thieves struck after the complainants had both entered their personal identification numbers.

In a planned attack the men waved papers in front of their victims to conceal the keypads of the machines and then pressed the amount button to obtain £200 in cash from both complainants.

Mr Byrnes tried to grab one of the men as Mr Guy grappled with another of the thieves.

Mr Lampitt said Mr Guy initially grabbed the collar of one of the men but his fingers were bent back and when he tried to hold onto him by the leg he was kicked in the face.

The men fled in a silver car, but they dropped half of the £400 at the scene along with a pair of lens-less glasses which one of them had been using as a disguise.

A bystander was able to note down the registration number of the car and the next day the men were arrested after the police stopped the vehicle in Cheshire.

At a hearing earlier this month Ioan Lingurar, 25, his 22-year-old brother David, and 30-year-old Nicolae Rostas, all pleaded guilty to charges of theft from the person.

The court heard that each of the men, who all live in the Walthamstow area of London, had previous convictions for similar offences and at the time of the thefts in Halifax Rostas was already subject to a suspended prison sentence.

The defendants’ lawyer Nicholas Whitehorn said they had all worked in the past, but they committed offences essentially for financial reasons.

“Their previous convictions do not paint a very pretty picture on their behalf,” he conceded.

“They have to accept they do have a record and pattern of offending.”

In her victim impact statement Mrs Griffiths said she now had to go to the bank with her son and had to think twice about going out on her own.

“She has had trouble sleeping and revisits the event over and over again in her mind,” said Mr Lampitt.

In his statement Mr Byrnes described having sleepless nights for almost a week and no longer used cash machines outside banks when he was on his own.

Each of the defendants was jailed for two years for the thefts and Rostas was given an extra 18 weeks in prison because of the suspended sentence that was hanging over him at the time.

“I have no doubt and approach your case on the basis that one of the reasons you were coming up here was to commit crime of the sort of which you have been convicted,” the judge told the three men.

Judge Bartfield said the method used by the men to disorientate their victims demonstrated that it was a planned, and to a degree, professional enterprise.

The judge said the serious part of the offence was that people who drew cash out of machines were constantly having to look over their shoulders for people like the defendants.