A father-of-two was jailed today for six and half years after he pleaded guilty to stealing more than €120,000 from ATM machines using cloned cards.
Romanian national Danile Munteanu (32) received the sentence at Trim Circuit Court after the evidence against him was outlined at a previous sentencing hearing.
The sophisticated operation saw bank machines being targeted in several counties over a five-month period
Judge Martina Baxter stated that the headline sentence for the criminal was 11 years but she reduced this to seven and gave a further six months off in mitigation for his guilty plea and other matters.
Commending the work of gardaí on the case, she outlined the “huge geographical spread” of the crime which was a “well planned and sophisticated enterprise”.
He was arrested at the Co Meath address where he lived in March, 2019, after a garda surveillance operation and has been in custody ever since.
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Some customers had their entire accounts cleared out as amounts of up to €700 at a time were withdrawn from them without their knowledge.
The people who were robbed of their money included juveniles and people in their 80s, and one person had more than €7,000 euro stolen from their account.
Bank of Ireland refunded all the money that was stolen from accounts and reported the thefts to gardaí.
The court heard that Munteanu has two previous convictions in the UK for similar crimes, namely the possession of a skimming device dating from 2010 and 2015. He received eight months in jail for the latter crime.
Judge Baxter told Munteanu that he “fully participated” in the extensive planning and detail that led detectives to discover a skimming factory.
The major investigation was led by Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB).
At a previous hearing, Detective Garda Stephen Kelly of the GNECB told Judge Baxter that, courtesy of CCTV recorded at the ATMs and the motorway network, as well as information from garda stops and checkpoints, Munteanu had been identified as a suspect. An address at Tower Mount, Navan, Co Meath was placed under surveillance in December 2018 but appeared to be empty.
After another spate of thefts on February 23 and 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.
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.
In many cases several transactions were made over a period of days before customers would realise there was something wrong, usually when they went to use their card to pay for something and find there was no money in their account.
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, and of possession of false Romanian ID cards, a false Romanian passport, and a false Romanian driving licence.
He also pleaded guilty to possession of a machine for making cloned cards.