An engineer accused of stealing over £26,000 from an ATM machine he was tasked to fix bought a new car with cash just days after the money went missing, a court has been told.
Darren Cooper has been charged with nine offences, including several money-laundering charges, arising from the theft of £26,760 from the ATM at the Spar store in Drumaness, Co Down, in December 2016.
At the time Cooper, from Glenisland Terrace in the Carrickfergus area, was employed as an engineer for the RMS Group, a company responsible for stocking ATMs across Northern Ireland.
Opening the Crown case against 44-year old Cooper on Tuesday, prosecuting barrister Sam Magee told the jury that while the accused has denied all the offences, when they have heard all the evidence they will be “in no doubt” Cooper stole the money.
The jury at Belfast Crown Court heard that on December 16, 2016, three members of staff from RMS filled the ATM at Drumaness with £26,000 in both £10 and £20 notes.
Three days later, on December 19, Cooper was tasked to attend a faulty ATM in “area 2” which covered Drumaness.
The jury was told that just after midday the ATM at the Spar was disconnected for 18 minutes before being restored.
Despite not being assigned to “area 2” the following day, Cooper returned to the ATM and later claimed that the money must have been mis-packed as the machine was giving out £10 notes instead of £20s, and vice versa.
Mr Magee said it was the Crown’s case that Cooper stole the money on either December 19 or 20, and that he “took steps to try and hide the fact he had done so”.
Following Cooper’s claim, security staff from RMS checked CCTV footage, security codes linked to the ATM, and spoke with staff, and it was concluded that four of the “cassettes” containing money for the machine were correctly installed on December 16.
These checks also confirmed no-one other that Cooper had access to the ATM over the relevant time period.
Telling the jury “there is a little more to it than this”, Mr Magee said that on December 20 Cooper walked into a car showroom where he “bought himself an early Christmas present”.
The barrister said Cooper had a white plastic bag filled with cash, which he used to buy a Ford Ecosport car.
Cooper is alleged to have told the salesman he had £20,000 in the bag, and said he did not trust banks.
He is also accused of depositing £11,000 in his own bank account in Carrickfergus on December 21, and of transferring £6,000 to a loan company on December 23.
In addition, he had been charged with, and denies, perverting the course of justice by causing a Co Antrim businessman to provide a false statement to police, stating he loaned Cooper £19,000.
Given the timing of Cooper’s cash windfall, Mr Magee asked the jury to consider whether Cooper was an innocent man who by “remarkable co-incidence” came into the same amount of money that was stolen from the ATM around the same time – or whether he was the man who stole the cash.