'Beast from the East' targeted the elderly at ATMs across country
A judge has dubbed a Romanian criminal "The Beast from the East" after hearing how he travelled to Ireland and preyed on elderly women before emptying their bank accounts of thousands of euro.
Judge Patrick Durcan, sitting in Ennis District Court, said Auriel Dinca (42) and his pregnant partner Adriana Neagoe (26) had flown from Romania to Ireland "seeking out vulnerable people with bank accounts and essentially cleared out the bank accounts".
The two pleaded guilty to a series of thefts. Dinca was jailed for 15 months while Neagoe was given a five-month suspended sentence on condition that she leave Ireland within 14 days under the supervision of the prison authorities.
The couple both have addresses in their native Romania and the judge said he was not jailing Neagoe as she faced considerably fewer charges than Dinca and had no previous convictions for theft, unlike her partner.
Jailing Dinca, Judge Durcan said: "People can't come in from outside like the 'Beast from the East' we complained about earlier this year in a weather sense and now we have it in a human form. 'The Beast from the East' comes in and targets vulnerable people and this court is not tolerating that."
He added: "It is mind-boggling that people come in from Romania and target Ireland and experienced criminals come in here and target vulnerable people."
Judge Durcan said €2,100 was stolen from Monica Donovan in Gort, Co Galway, in April; €2,571 from Ann O'Flaherty in Galway city last November; €2,400 from Kathleen Fitzgerald in February in Cork; and €3,080 from Tess Frost in Shannon, also in February.
He said the couple had "gone on a spree" and that the victims were fully compensated only by their banks and not by the perpetrators.
Inspector Tom Kennedy told the court the victims were "vulnerable citizens, some in their 70s and 80s, out doing their shopping and you have these sneaky people coming behind them noting down their PIN numbers at ATM machines and later distracting the person in car parks".
He said the two "while distracting the old ladies, would thieve bank cards and go to bank machines and clear out the accounts and toddle off on their merry way".
The inspector said that but for very good detective work by the gardai in Gort, they may never have been caught.
"It is very alarming. These two were preying on women of advancing years and trawling the country for them. It is a terrible crime. I have never seen anything so deceitful," he added.
Counsel for both accused said Dinca carried out the offences as he suffers from a gambling addiction and had stolen the money to pay back loan sharks.
He said Neagoe, whose father is a police officer in Romania, was an innocent party to a certain extent "and it would be a crime of passion as she followed her better half". She had worked in a bank in her home country.