TWO men were sentenced at Worcester Crown Court on Monday (June 6, 2016) following a cross-border investigation into cash machine thefts across the Midlands and Wales.
Manuel Scarlat, 18 and Gheorge Constantine, 44, both of Belchers Lane, Birmingham were arrested on March 10 this year, after an elderly man was robbed at a cash machine on Church Green East, Redditch.
Following the arrest, a subsequent investigation led to officers working with West Midlands Police, South Wales Police and North Wales Police after similar offences were also reported within these policing areas.
Seventeen offences were investigated altogether throughout the Midlands and Wales. The offence locations included Bridgend, Cardiff, Coleshill, Leamington Spa, Neath, Porthcawl, Redditch, Rugby, Solihull, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Swansea, Warwick and Wrexham.
It was revealed that during each offence, Constantine would drive both men to the offence locations, and Scarlat would then distract the victim whilst they were entering their pin number into a cash machine. He would then distract them and place a piece of paper across the screen.
Scarlat then spoke to the victims to distract them, and whilst the paper was blocking the screen he pressed the buttons underneath and selected to withdraw £500.
He then collected the money as it came out and left the area. The victims in most offences were mainly elderly or vulnerable people.
Overall, a combined amount of £6,520 was stolen throughout the offences.
Both men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit theft. Manuel Scarlat was sentenced to two years imprisonment and Gheorge Constantine was sentenced to twenty months.
West Mercia Police offers the following advice to anyone using a cash machine:
•Always be aware of other people around you and don’t engage in conversation whilst using an ATM.
•Be aware of your surroundings – if someone is crowding or watching you, cancel the transaction and go to another machine.
•If there is anything unusual about the cash machine or signs of tampering do not use the machine and report it to the bank immediately.
•Stand close the machine and shield your card and the keypad as you enter your PIN.
•Put your money and card away securely before leaving the cash machine.
•If you suspect that a skimming device has been attached to a cash machine, inform staff within the bank or if this is not possible, inform the police – put your personal safety first and do not attempt to remove it yourself.
•Tear up or preferably shred your cash machine receipt, mini-statement or balance enquiry when you dispose of them.
•If you do become a victim, or know someone who has, report it to the bank and police as soon as possible.