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Last Updated: Friday, 21 November, 2003, 15:24 GMT
Romanian cash machine gang jailed
Ina Ivan was spotted by an alert police officer
A gang of Romanian illegal immigrants has been jailed after stealing thousands of pounds in an elaborate cash machine fraud.

The six-strong gang fitted pinhole cameras and card skimming devices into hole-in-the-wall machines in London.

Members siphoned off more 8,200 using the scam but had 108 forged bank cards and PIN numbers giving them access to another 130,000.

All six admitted conspiracy to defraud at Southwark Crown Court last month.

It is believed to be the first time a case involving pinhole cameras has made it to court.

Last month BBC News Online reported how cash machine fraud was costing British banks around 30m a year.

The officers had been briefed about this sort of activity and were watching out for it. They just thought something didn't look right about
Jaki Wilson
City of London Police

Detective Inspector Roger Cook, of the City of London Police's Cheque and Credit Card Unit, said at the time that gangs, many of them from Romania, were becoming increasingly sophisticated.

On Friday Vasillica Ivan and Vasile Sandu, both 21, Mioara Daniciulescu, 18, and a juvenile were each jailed for three years.

A second juvenile was sentenced to 18 months and a sixth member of the team, 20-year-old Ina Ivan will sentenced next month.

None of the six had proper identity papers on them and police cannot be sure they are who they say they are, and are also sceptical about their claims to be all aged under 21.

Judge Christopher Elwen recommended that all but Daniciulescu should be deported on their release from prison.

City of London Police spokeswoman Jaki Wilson said the gang was arrested on 10 July after two sharp-eyed officers noticed two of them acting suspiciously.

Vasile Sandu
Vasile Sandu has claimed to be aged 21
She said: "They carried out a stop-and-search and found a card-reading device, a pinhole camera, tubes and a transmitter on them.

"The officers had been briefed about this sort of activity and were watching out for it. They just thought something didn't look right about."

The officers stopped Ina Ivan and a 17-year-old boy, who had followed a customer into the lobby of the HSBC bank close to St Paul's Cathedral.

The juvenile, who cannot be named for legal reasons, signalled a warning to a couple sitting in a nearby car but police arrested them before they were able to drive off.

Inside the car were Sandu and Daniciulescu.

Police searched the car and found video equipment and a monitor.

Mioara Daniciulescu was sitting in a car with a video monitor
They believe the pinhole camera was fixed to cash machines and transmitted images of people keying in their PIN numbers to the video monitor.

The gang were also using card skimming devices which enabled them to take the details from customers' cards and transpose them onto cloned cards which, when the PIN numbers were added, gave access to money.

Two other people, Vassilica Ivan, 21, and another 17-year-old boy, were arrested nearby and several flats in the Silvertown area of east London were searched.

In the flats police found more video equipment, hundreds of blank mobile phone cards, download cables, a laptop computer and a card rewriter.

Vassilica Ivan was jailed for three years
The latter could be used to key into the mobile phone cards the customer details from credit cards.

A fake Italian driving licence was also found in the house but no other information about the gang, who refused to answer questions by detectives.

It is believed they may have been part of a human trafficking gang which smuggles people into the UK and, in return, asks them to carry out credit card fraud on its behalf.

Detective Constable Lee Bowen said: "We have been working in partnership with the banks on initiatives to frustrate this type of attack and have had particular success in designing out this type of crime with the assistance of HSBC."

He urged the public to look out for anything unusual or people acting suspiciously nearby when using cash machines.



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