Monday 21 August 2017

Pictured: Man (32) jailed for his role in 'military-style' Eastern European burglary gang

Aurimas Petraska at Limerick Circuit Court Photo: Press 22
Aurimas Petraska at Limerick Circuit Court Photo: Press 22
Ralph Riegel

Ralph Riegel

A Lithuanian national was jailed for five-and-a-half years for his role in a burglary gang that terrorised business owners by using cars as battering rams.

Aurimas Petraska (32) was jailed as Judge Tom O'Donnell warned Limerick Circuit Criminal Court that business operators must be protected from the behaviour of such professional burglary gangs.

"This is a very serious case," he said.

"This was a professional job. This was premeditated and planned down to the last detail and executed with military precision."

"These are not victimless crimes," he added, noting business owners faced repair costs, higher insurance premiums and concerns over their personal safety and that of their staff.

Judge O'Donnell praised the tenacity of gardaí who worked for two years to identify and foil the Eastern European gang who employed military-style techniques in their reign of terror across Cork, Tipperary and Limerick.

A Garda team under Detective Inspector Joe Moore co-ordinated with detectives across Munster and even drew on intelligence from Europol, Interpol and Baltic State police forces to track down the gang.

The gang used concrete-block laden cars as heavy battering rams to smash their way into pharmacies and boutiques in rural towns.

Gang members wore military-style black overalls, had balaclavas, forehead-mounted flash lights and each had a large wristwatch to time the raid.

Every robbery was effectively ended once the gang had reached the six-minute mark - thereby evading gardaí by leaving the scene well within the average garda robbery response time.

The gang only targeted high-value goods, such as Chanel cosmetics, accessories and designer clothing.

Each targeted premises was subject to a careful reconnaissance by the gang before the robbery.

Petraska, of Church Street, Rathkeale, Co Limerick, pleaded guilty on April 7 to his role in three robberies which netted the gang €150,000.

Judge O'Donnell was told Petraska had convictions in his native Lithuania, Norway and the Netherlands. Gardaí believe the goods were shipped for sale on the Eastern European black market.

The gang operations were only foiled when detectives, supported by armed members of the Regional Support Unit (RSU) stopped a car at Shanagolden, Co Limerick, on June 28, 2016.

Admitted

Petraska pleaded guilty to a total of five charges, including three of burglary. He admitted his role in robberies of O'Brien's Pharmacy in Cahir, Co Tipperary, on September 10, 2015; Isobel Boutique in Adare, Co Limerick, on June 21, 2016; and O'Connor's Pharmacy in Kinsale, Co Cork, on January 13, 2016.

The Lithuanian, who lived in Kaunas, dropped out of college in his native country and moved to Ireland in 2005.

He admitted he had helped convert old cars into battering rams for the gang by removing seats and placing heavy concrete blocks into the vehicle.

Petraska was paid between €2,000 and €3,000 for each robbery. Judge O'Donnell imposed a seven-year prison sentence but agreed to suspend the final 18 months.

Irish Independent

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