'Beast from the East' targeted the elderly at ATMs across country
A Romanian conman dubbed the "Beast from the East" by a judge has been jailed for 15 months.
Auriel Dinca (42) and his pregnant partner, Adriana Neagoe (26), duped vulnerable elderly women out of thousands of euro, Ennis District Court heard.
Judge Patrick Durcan said the couple had flown to Ireland to "seek out vulnerable people" and "clear out" their bank accounts.
The court was told how they noted down the Pin numbers of their victims as they used cash machines. They would then follow their victims before stealing their bank cards.
The couple would then use the cards and the Pin numbers to withdraw money from cash machines.
Neagoe, whose parents believed she was on holiday in Ireland, was given a five-month suspended jail sentence on condition that she left Ireland within 14 days.
Judge Durcan said he would not jail Neagoe because she had no previous convictions for theft, unlike Dinca.
"Her involvement was less," he added.
Jailing Dinca, Judge Durcan said: "People can't come in from outside, like the 'Beast from the East'... targeting vulnerable people."
The court was told that Dinca and Neagoe stole €3,080 from Tess Frost in Shannon; €2,571 from Ann O'Flaherty in Galway city; €2,400 from Kathleen Fitzgerald in Cork; and €2,100 from Monica Donovan in Gort.
Judge Durcan said that the couple had "gone on a spree", and that although the victims had been fully compensated, they were compensated by their banks and not by the perpetrators of the crime.
Garda Inspector Tom Kennedy said the crimes were "at the highest end of deceitful activity I have ever come across".
He said the victims were "vulnerable citizens", some of whom were in their 70s and 80s, out doing their shopping.
"These sneaky people came up behind them, noting down their Pin numbers at ATM machines," Insp Kennedy said.
He said they would then follow the women to car parks, distract them and steal their bank cards.
"They would then go to bank machines and clear out the accounts and toddle off on their merry way," he added.
"It is a terrible crime. I have never seen anything so deceitful."
Dinca and Neagoe both admitted theft. The court was told Dinca was a gambling addict who had stolen the money to repay loan sharks.
Counsel asked the court not to jail Dinca, but to send him back to Romania. Judge Durcan refused, stating that would be the soft option.
Counsel said that Neagoe had worked in a bank in her native Romania and as a retail manager in Switzerland.