Jailed Dagenham cashpoint fraudster stole ‘to get home to Romania’

Abunei admitted the charge (pic: PA Wire)

Abunei admitted the charge (pic: PA Wire) - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

A kick-boxing dad used an iPod to steal people’s details at cashpoints up and down the country because he needed money to go back to Romania, a court heard.

Former IT worker Catalin Abunei, jailed for 14 months on Tuesday, was arrested after eagle-eyed passers-by spotted him lurking suspiciously next to a shopping centre cash machine.

During the arrest, police found he had attached his an iPod attached to the roofs of ATMs to record people entering their PIN details in Oxford city centre.

Abunei, 24, of Berengers Place, Dagenham, had already drained art gallery attendant Shona Ritchie’s bank account of £90 earlier that day, leaving her with just 15p.

Judge Zoe Smith told him via videolink at Oxford Crown Court: “It may be only £90 but that can make all the difference to someone if it means going into their overdraft.

“The sort of fraud that you were perpetrating can leave someone without money, without a card and facing extreme difficulty in getting home. It is a very mean offence.

“The items you had in your possession had the potential to facilitate fraud affecting a large number of people.”

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Prosecuting, Richard Moss said Abunei had several previous convictions for the same crime, dating back to when he was part of a criminal gang in Newcastle.

He told the court the officers who arrested Abunei in Oxford city centre on October 8 realised what he had been doing when they picked up his iPod and saw it was filming their own feet.

“There’s significant planning in terms of manufacturing these devices and attaching them to the machines,” he added.

The court heard Abunei, who pleaded guilty, had stolen the money because he wanted to start a new life with his girlfriend and their baby, aged six months, back in Romania.

He claims the police confiscated and destroyed his passport following a previous swindle and that he needed to raise £800 to buy a replacement one and plane tickets home.

Defending, Lucy French said Abunei – who worked in the IT industry in Germany before arriving in the UK – had fallen in with a bad crowd after taking up kick-boxing as a hobby.

“He’s an intelligent, articulate young man.

“He was simply desperate to obtain the money to go back to his own country and obtain a legitimate lifestyle for him and his partner and baby.”

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