A Romanian father-of-two has pleaded guilty to stealing more than €120,000 from ATM machines, using cloned cards in a sophisticated operation in which bank machines in several counties were targeted over a five-month period.
Danile Munteanu (31) was arrested at the Co Meath address where he lived in March last year after a Garda surveillance operation.
Trim Circuit Criminal Court heard that hundreds of transactions where cloned cards had been used to withdraw money from the accounts of innocent Bank of Ireland customers were carried out in counties including Monaghan, Louth, Meath, Westmeath, Galway, Kildare, Wicklow and Dublin.
Some customers had their entire accounts cleared out as amounts of up to €700 at a time were withdrawn without their knowledge.
They included juveniles and people in their 80s, and one person had more than €7,000 stolen from their account.
Bank of Ireland refunded all the money that was stolen from accounts and reported the thefts to gardaí.
Detective Garda Stephen Kelly of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau told Judge Martina Baxter that trawling CCTV recorded at the ATMs as well as on the motorway network, as well as information from Garda stops and checkpoints, had identified Munteanu as a suspect and an address at Tower Mount, Navan, Co Meath, was placed under surveillance in December 2018 but appeared to be empty.
But after another spate of thefts on February 23- 24, 2019, at Killester and Dunshaughlin the house was watched again and a warrant obtained to search it.
Gardaí raided the house on March 4, 2019, and arrested Munteanu.
During a search of the house and a car at the address a large number of loyalty cards with magnetic strips were found, more than 50 of which had stolen bank details overwritten onto them.
Det Garda Kelly told the court that cloned cards were made after criminals would place a concealed camera in a fake panel, powered independently with hidden mobile phone batteries, onto the front of the ATM, with the camera looking at the keypad where innocent bank customers would input their PIN.
A second device would be placed around the card entry slot, designed to look like part of the ATM, and skim the details of the card as it was put into the machine.
The criminals would then match the PIN numbers with the skimmed account information and make cloned cards which could be used to withdraw cash from the account at an ATM.
Munteanu pleaded guilty to nine charges of theft, each covering multiple transactions, between October 1, 2018, and March 3, 2019. He also pleaded guilty to nine charges of possession of false instruments, namely cloned bank cards, on the same dates. He will be sentenced next year.