Friday 23 March 2018

Chef used stolen ATM cards to buy a laptop and sound system

Fiona Ferguson

An Algerian chef has avoided jail for his role in using stolen ATM cards to buy goods such as a laptop and sound system.

Sofiane Benchouat (44) paid €900 compensation to the financial institutions at a loss as a result of his role. He said the cards had been provided by a Moroccan man who gave him €100 for buying goods. Benchouat was homeless at the time of the offences.

Benchouat of Sunbury Gardens, Dartry, Dublin pleaded guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to theft of €778 and €643 and one count of possession of a stolen ATM card at various locations on dates between October 17th and November 23rd, 2014. He has four previous road traffic convictions.

Co-accused fellow Algerian Mohammed Fanit (41) pleaded guilty to theft of €40 and €456 and two counts of possession of a stolen ATM card at locations during the same time period.

Fanit, formerly of Auburn Villas, Rathgar, Dublin but now living in emergency accommodation, had his case adjourned until March to allow him gather compensation. He has one previous conviction.

The men were captured on CCTV as the stolen cards were used to buy goods such as a laptop and sound equipment at Argos and Harvey Norman in the Nutgrove Retail Park. The goods were not recovered and the financial institutions who issued the cards were at a loss of just under €2,000.

Judge Patricia Ryan imposed a two year sentence on Benchouat which she suspended in full and said the €900 compensation should be handed over for the benefit of the institutions involved.

Garda Kieran O'Sullivan told Fergal Foley BL, prosecuting, that the cards belonging to two men were taken while they were out socialising but it is not known how or by whom. The two victims noticed unauthorised transactions on their accounts and gardai were notified.

Benchouat and Fanit were arrested after being identified on the CCTV footage from the stores.

The men told gardai that a third party had given them the cards and asked them to make the purchases for which they would be given a fee.

Gda O'Sullivan agreed with James Dwyer BL, defending Benchouat, that his client had said he had got €100 for buying the laptop and that he “knew it was dodgy.”

He agreed with Michael Miley BL, defending Fanit, that his client had been fully co-operative and had not come to any further garda attention.

Mr Dwyer said Benchouat had come to Ireland after marrying an Irish woman he met in Germany but the marriage broke down and the father of two became homeless after falling into a depression.

He submitted Benchouat had been in a vulnerable state at the time of the offences and may have been easy to manipulate. He said his client had been co-operative with gardai and had work available to him shortly.

Mr Miley said Fanit had come to Ireland 16 years ago and married an Irish woman who died in 2009. He said Fanit, who previously worked as a taxi driver, was ashamed of his behaviour.

He said Fanit had gotten a sum in the region of €100 for his role in the offence. He said Fanit would gather compensation if given time to do so.

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